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Vicarious criminal liability in car accidents

You may hear reports of car accidents in Brooklyn caused by unlicensed drivers that often solicit a chuckle or two. Yet such situations are no laughing matter, particularly if your car was involved. People have come to us here at the office of Neil. S Ruskin in similar scenarios asking if there is any why they could be held criminally responsible.  The doctrine of negligent entrustment allows car accident victims to hold you liable of you entrusted your vehicle to an irresponsible driver. This principle, however, applies only to civil cases. You may not be totally off the hook just yet, though.

Section 509 of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws states that no unlicensed driver shall operate a motor vehicle in any of the following situations:

  •          On a public highway
  •          Upon a sidewalk
  •          To or from any public garage or car wash
  •          In a lot adjacent to a public garage, car wash, supermarket or shopping center

Furthermore, the law also states that you cannot permit your car to be driven by an unlicensed driver in any of the aforementioned areas. You also cannot allow a driver to violate restrictions placed upon him or her by his or her license or permit using your vehicle. A violation of this law on your part could result in a fine of up to $300 and/or 15 days imprisonment.

Should whomever uses your car (be he or she licensed or not) injure or kill someone with it, there is the potential of you facing criminal negligence charges. Yet if he or she had the car without your consent, it may be hard to argue that you meet the gross negligence standard required by law.

You can find more information on dealing with criminal charges stemming from a car accident here on our site. 

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