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Massachusetts Court Discusses Liability of Car Owners for Accidents

In Massachusetts, a person that lends a vehicle to a dangerous driver may be deemed negligent if the driver ultimately causes a collision that results in bodily injury. There are certain things a plaintiff must prove to establish a car owner’s liability for an accident, however. In a recent opinion, a Massachusetts court discussed the negligence of an owner of a borrowed car and what a plaintiff must prove to demonstrate the right to recover damages. If you were hurt by a negligent driver operating a borrowed vehicle, you might be owed damages, and it is critical to speak with a seasoned Massachusetts personal injury lawyer promptly to protect your right to recover compensation.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff suffered injuries in a collision caused by the defendant driver. The defendant driver, who was 26-years-old at the time of the accident, had ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. He lived alone but was subsidized by his parents, who were legally separated. The defendant’s mother owned the vehicle the defendant driver was operating at the time of the accident.

Allegedly, the defendant’s mother was aware that he was involved in other collisions but let him operate the car as if it were his own regardless. The plaintiff ultimately filed a lawsuit against the defendant and his mother, alleging, among other things, a negligence claim against the mother. She then moved to have the case dismissed via summary judgment.

Pursuing Claims Against a Car Owner in Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts law, the registered owner of a vehicle is presumed to be responsible for the actions of the vehicle’s driver. Specifically, the statute states that evidence that a borrowed car was registered to a person is prima facie evidence that it was being operated by an individual for whose conduct the owner was legally responsible. The law places the burden of proving the absence of the required control on the registered owner.

In the subject case, the defendant mother was the owner of the vehicle the defendant driver was operating at the time of the crash. Thus, she had the burden of proving she was not responsible for the defendant driver’s actions. The court explained this is a significant burden to meet, and even if a defendant establishes there was no master-servant relationship, the issue will typically proceed to a jury. The court elaborated that the essential question was not whether the owner exercised control over the driver but whether the owner had the authority to do so. Here, the court found that the defendant failed to establish her right to summary judgment on the issue of whether she was negligent. Thus, her motion was denied.

Speak to a Capable Personal Injury Attorney in Massachusetts

People who lend their vehicles to drivers that they know pose a risk of harm to other individuals should be held accountable for any injuries the drivers cause. If you were hurt by a careless motorist, you should speak to a lawyer about your options. Personal injury attorney James K. Meehan can advise you of your rights and help you to seek the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us via our form online or at 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting.