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Q: One morning, my neighbor’s son drove his father’s car through a picture window in the living room of my house, continued through the back wall, and eventually came into contact with a tree.  My neighbor says that his son was operating the car without his permission.

A: Under the Vehicle and Traffic Law, there is a presumption that the operator of a vehicle operates it with the owner’s permission. The presumption may be rebutted by substantial evidence that your neighbor did not consent.

Suppose that both father and son swear that the son had no permission.  Nevertheless, a jury is permitted to make its own decision on the strength and plausibility of these disavowals of permission: there is still room for doubts that are best left for the jury.

In a typical case, the child had access to the parents’ residence.  Further, a key to the vehicle was kept in a central location inside a bin located in the kitchen of the parents’ residence.  Additionally, on previous occasions, the parents had permitted the child to drive other vehicles.  Thus, the parents would be unable to overcome the strong presumption pursuant to the Vehicle and Traffic Law that the child was operating the vehicle with permission.

Also in a typical case, you will submit a claim to your insurer, and your insurer will compensate you and thereby become your ‘subrogee’ – so that the legal situation is the concern of your insurance company, and this is no longer your case.  It is the insurer’s.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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