Can a car dealership company be held responsible for an accident that an employee has in one of its cars??

UPDATED: Aug 15, 2017

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Can a car dealership company be held responsible for an accident that an employee has in one of its cars??

A friend of mine who works for a dealership was recently involved in an accident with one of their cars. It was for sale on the lot and they drove it off going somewhere. They ended up being involved in a car collision 15 minutes away. They did not have a licence nor insurance from the company. The owner of the dealership is now suing them for theft. They’ve stated previously that they have driven the cars before with the dealership’s knowledge.

Asked on August 15, 2017 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It doesn't matter if previously he drove cars with knowledge: if he did not have permission this time, the employee stole it (taking a car without permission is stealing); if he effectively stole it by driving it without permission, he could face criminal charges and would also be financially responsible for any damage or costs or losses resulting from his driving the car without permission (i.e. from the accident). Furthermore, since he did not have a license, he could *never* drive the car legally, so essentially by definition, his taking the car was wrongful and he can be held accountable for it.
Even if he had a license and had permission, if he was at fault (e.g. driving carelessly in some way, whether by speeding, texting or driving distractedly, driving aggressively or recklessly, ignoring traffic signals or stop signs, etc.) in causing the accident, his fault would still make him liable for all damage, costs, and losses.

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