If I have been served with a civil suit for hit and run as the car owner, what could happen? 32 Answers as of October 25, 2012

My husband was driving without a license and he hit and run. This happened last year. Now I was just served with legal papers of a civil suit from the owner of the other car. Both my husband and I are named on the suit him for being the driver and me for being the registered owner and allowing him to operate the vehicle. I want to know my options. I also would like to know if this would affect my license.

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The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C.
The Law Office of Josh Lamborn, P.C. | Josh Lamborn
A civil suit will not affect your license to drive. It may affect your insurance rate though. You should contact your insurance company as they are obliged to defend the lawsuit on your behalf. If they determine that they are not so obliged (possibly because husband was unlicensed and therefore not a "permissive" driver) then you will have to hire a lawyer to defend you in the lawsuit, otherwise you would have to defend yourself or risk getting a default judgment against you.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 6/23/2011
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC
Lacy Fields, Attorney at Law, LLC | Lacy Fields
As long as you were not driving this should not affect the points on your license. However, it could affect your insurance rate as you are accused of trusting someone else with your car that should not have been trusted (or so the lawsuit claims). Your insurance company should help you defend against the case; that's what their lawyers are for. Your husband however, could be charged with leaving the scene which is criminal. Also, his leaving is very strong evidence that he was a fault and could arguably warrant an award of punitive damages (extra money to the plaintiff). Another note: you cannot be made to testify against each other due to spousal privilege. You do not have to take the stand against each other, and your husband has a right for you to keep private any statements he made to you. There is a little more to this (exceptions to the exceptions and whatnot), so you should talk to your lawyer. If your insurance is refusing to defend the case for you, you may want to consider hiring your own personal attorney to defend it.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 6/23/2011
Law Office of Jared Altman
Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
If he had your permission to drive the car then you are on the hook.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/23/2011
Wilson & Hajek, LLC
Wilson & Hajek, LLC | Eddie W. Wilson
In general, your options are to contact your insurance company and have them defend the lawsuit. If you haven't been charged with a violation your license should not be affected as this is being handled as a civil matter.
Answer Applies to: Virginia
Replied: 6/23/2011
Law Offices of Earl K. Straight
Law Offices of Earl K. Straight | Earl K. Straight
If you had insurance on the vehicle at the time of the accident, you need to contact your insurance company immediately and notify them of the lawsuit. They will handle it from there, including hiring an attorney on your behalf. If you did not have insurance, you need to contact a lawyer to defend you. The worst thing you can do is ignore the suit and allow the plaintiff to take a default judgment against you. There is a time period in which you must file an answer to the suit, in Texas it is by 10:00 am on the Monday following the expiration of 20 days from the date of service. Make sure you get an answer on file prior to that deadline.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 6/23/2011
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink | Steven Alan Fink
    The best option is to give the lawsuit to your auto insurance and let them defend you. In CA the owner of a vehicle is liable for up to $15,000 in damages even if they were not in the car. If you knew he was an unfit driver they can proceed on a theory of negligent entrustment and try to get more. Your license will not be impacted at all.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/23/2011
    Rose, Senders & Bovarnick, LLC
    Rose, Senders & Bovarnick, LLC | Paul S. Bovarnick
    First, you should contact your insurer. If you are uninsured, you should consult with a lawyer. As to your license, simply being sued will not affect your license in Oregon, Washington or Montana.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/23/2011
    Law Offices of Steven R. Kuhn & Associates
    Law Offices of Steven R. Kuhn & Associates | Steven R. Kuhn
    If you have insurance to cover the car, turn the lawsuit over to your insurance company. Your liability is limited to $15,000 for any one person injured in the accident and $30,000 for all persons injured unless it can be proven you negligently entrusted the car to your husband. If you knew he was driving with a suspended license, you possibly could have unlimited liability. I do not believe this will effect your driver's license. Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/23/2011
    Martinson & Beason, PC
    Martinson & Beason, PC | Elizabeth Beason Moore
    If you have insurance, you should call your insurance company first.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney | Patrick M Lamar
    This is best addressed by an attorney you contact personally. However, if you knew he was driving the car without a license and was a bad driver this could affect your insurance. It should not affect your license at all.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator
    Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator | Bernard Huff
    I suggest that you obtain and consult with a personal injury attorney to protect your interest as a co-defendant in the lawsuit.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    If you had insurance at the time turn the papers over to the insurance company. If you did not have insurance hire you a lawyer and move quickly. If they get a judgment against you your license could be affected.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    E. Ray Critchett, LLC
    E. Ray Critchett, LLC | Ray Critchett
    Generally, if you were insured at the time of the collision, your insurance carrier will provide you with a defense to the lawsuit. You may want to notify the insurance company as soon as possible, depending on the language of your contract with the insurance company. Otherwise, you will have to file an answer to the lawsuit and should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 10/25/2012
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    You need to get a lawyer to help you. At a minimum you need to file an answer to the complaint within the time period indicated on the summons. Your failure to do so will result in a default judgment against the both of you and the Plaintiff will be able to get almost as much money in damages as he or she wants. Your license should not be effected, but that should be the least of your immediate concern.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
    If you didn't report the accident to your insurance company, do so immediately. If you carried Bodily Injury liability insurance, it may provide a defense and coverage for this incident. If you didn't have BI coverage on the car involved in the accident, then consult an attorney immediately, since you have to file a written response in the court file within a finite period of time (in Florida, it's 20 days) otherwise a default will be entered against you. If you can't afford a lawyer, then go to the courthouse and talk with the clerk, and he or she will probably help you fill out what's called the style of the complaint, and then just write on the paper that you deny everything alleged in the complaint.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    While it will not likely affect your license, it will affect your insurance premiums and the size of the suit could impact upon your personal belongings if a Judgment is obtained against you.The law suit should be submitted to your insurance company for defense and depending upon the size of the amount of money being demanded, you may need to hire an independent lawyer as well to defend your interests. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    As long as you were insured, you are fine. Turn it over to your insurance company to defend. If not insured, you need an attorney to defend your interests, or you could have your license suspended because of a defaulted civil suit.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    Your insurance company will provide you an attorney who can discuss these matters with you.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers
    Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers | Andrew D. Myers
    Run don't walk to (1) your insurance agent to see if it is not too late to have the insurance company defend you, it's what they do, (2) to a civil attorney to otherwise help to defend you. As the owner of the vehicle, yes, you do face potential liability for this.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC | Travis Prestwich
    It probably will not affect your license since you were not driving. However, you should hire an attorney to represent your interests or, even better, contact your insurance company so it can hire a lawyer for you.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Law Office of Ronald Arthur Lowry
    Law Office of Ronald Arthur Lowry | Ronald Arthur Lowry
    Contact your automobile liability insurance company immediately and make arrangements to have the suit papers delivered to that insurer ASAP. The insurer will have to provide an attorney to represent you and your husband. I will leave it to that attorney to explain the specifics of your potential liability to you.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Anderson & Bliven P.C.
    Anderson & Bliven P.C. | Scott Anderson
    Contact an attorney in your area immediately. This is a serious matter that requires legal attention.Failing to respond to the complaint will lead to a default judgment.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    David Hoines Law
    David Hoines Law | David Hoines
    yes, it cam affect your license if you or your husband don't have the mandatory Fla insurance if you do, turn the suit over to your insurance company.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    If its only civil, and your husband did hit and run, be thankful he is not being criminally prosecuted. As the owner, you are liable up to $15,000 for personal injury and $5,000 for property damage: Vehicle Code 17151. (a) The liability of an owner, bailee of an owner, or personal representative of a decedent imposed by this chapter and not arising through the relationship of principal and agent or master and servant is limited to the amount of fifteen thousand dollars($15,000) for the death of or injury to one person in any one accident and, subject to the limit as to one person, is limited tithe amount of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) for the death of or injury to more than one person in any one accident and is limited to the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for damage to property of others in any one accident. Your husband is liable for all damages caused by him. However, since this is a community property state, you are liable for the debts of your husband incurred during marriage. As to your license, I do not think you are affected at all, but he could be if it is turned into DMV.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    You should turn it into your insurance company. They will probably defend the lawsuit. It should not affect your license if no one reports it to the police. There is a sort of "catch -22". If he was driving without your permission, your insurance may not cover the damages. If he had your permission, you might get charged with allowing an uninsured driver drive your car. I do not know the penalty off hand, but I do not think it suspends your license. Which option is best depends on how much their damages are, and whether your husband owns real estate, stocks, etc. If he owns nothing, it may not matter that they get a large judgment against him, they can't collect anyway (you should not be liable if he didn't have permission). If he owns a lot, and their damages are a lot, it is better to have insurance coverage.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Magnuson Lowell P.S.
    Magnuson Lowell P.S. | Richard S. Lowell
    A civil suit shouldn't affect your license at all; but you need to immediately contact your insurance company. They will retain an attorney to represent you and defend you and your husband from the lawsuit.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A.
    Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A. | Christopher J. Roberts
    You want to contact your insurance company immediately, assuming you had insurance on the car. The insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent you. If you don't have insurance, you will need to hire a lawyer or try to defend yourself (not a good idea). You will have a deadline for responding to the legal papers and you need to make sure you file your response before that deadline or you will lose the case and a judgment will be entered against you. I don't think this event will affect your license given that you were not driving, but if you get a judgment against you some states will not let you renew your license until you pay it. Hopefully you had car insurance and the insurance company will help you deal with this problem. If not, you should at least talk to a lawyer in your area. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 2/21/2012
    Allen Murphy Law
    Allen Murphy Law | W. Riley Allen
    Yes, it can potentially. You need to hire a lawyer; it's nothing to screw around with.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates | Lyle B. Masnikoff
    You and your husband need to speak to or hire a criminal attorney to protect yourselves. Also call your auto insurance company and they should handle the lawsuit for you.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/22/2011
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC
    Law Office of Russell D. Gray, PC | Russell D. Gray
    If you have insurance coverage, tell your insurance company. They should be able to provide you a defense, including an attorney, at no cost (other than the insurance premiums you were paying at the time of the accident).
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 6/22/2011
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