Bob owns a car. Rob borrows it, drives, breaks some road rules and causes an accident with a hell lot of damage, blood and sorrow (all hypothetical).

Under what circumstances can Bob be held liable for that, if any? (Barring the scenario where Bob intentionally modifies the car or sets a device to cause the accident). Let's also assume that there is no insurance whatsoever and it is perfectly legal to not have one.

Say if the car does not have a current WoF (warrant of fitness, or whatever equivalent in different jurisdictions), does Bob have any duty to disallow Rob to drive it, or at least warn him about the expired WoF? Or is it totally up to Rob to check that the WoF endorsement is current?

(Any jurisdiction).

  • 2
    The law varies a great deal between jurisdiction on this point. Mere ownership suffices some places but not others. Colorado, for example, has a "family car doctrine" that can impose vicarious liability even on a non-owner of record.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 22, 2021 at 21:04
  • "Let's also assume that there is no insurance whatsoever and it is perfectly legal to not have one." We will need to then assume the jurisdiction of an imaginary land with imaginary laws. In the US, cars are insured, not people.
    – Tiger Guy
    Mar 26, 2021 at 8:53
  • @TigerGuy Who says that the US is necessarily relevant to this question? In New Zealand, for example, there is no legal obligation to have vehicle insurance.
    – Greendrake
    Mar 26, 2021 at 10:05
  • @Greendrake, similarly, who says NZ is relevant? My comment is that you can't discuss legal issues without a jurisdiction. A government could write laws from "the owner of the car never is liable for any accident caused by their vehicle and every accident is the sole responsibility of the driver" to "the owner of the car is always 100% liable for any accident caused by their vehicle no matter who is driving it." My comment about the car is because this is an oft-misunderstood facet of US insurance.
    – Tiger Guy
    Mar 26, 2021 at 15:51
  • @TigerGuy You can either specify jurisdiction or outline the applicable laws to make the question narrow enough to answer. I could tag with NZ but then it would unnecessarily scope it out of any other jurisdictions where car insurance is not mandatory (and I'm sure it's not only NZ).
    – Greendrake
    Mar 26, 2021 at 23:58

1 Answer 1


Where the driver is an agent of the owner

Most typically where the driver is an employee of the owner and is using the vehicle in the course of the employment.

Where the owner is negligent or reckless in allowing use of the vehicle

For example, where the brake warning light has been on for a while and the accident is due to brake failure.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Mar 22, 2021 at 21:17

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