Know the Law – Who is a vehicle owner?

The law defines a vehicle "owner" as:

  • A person, firm, association or corporation renting a motor vehicle or having the exclusive use thereof, under a lease or otherwise, for a period greater than 30 days
  • A person who holds the legal title of a vehicle
  • A person who has the immediate right of possession of a vehicle under an installment sale contract

A vehicle owner is liable for the negligent acts of the person driving the vehicle.

  • In Michigan, liability is based on ownership – it doesn’t matter whether the owner did nothing other than let someone else drive his/her vehicle
  • Generally, the owner of a vehicle is legally responsible for the negligent acts of the driver if: 1) owner gave permission to take vehicle, 2) driver is close relative of owner (implied permission) and 3) owner knows vehicle was taken (even though no permission given).

Owner may be held personally liable for damages awarded in a negligence lawsuit

  • Bottom line: don’t loan your vehicle without carefully considering the consequences


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