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QLD Unlicensed Driver Crashed our Car - Liable for Damages?

Discussion in 'Traffic Law Forum' started by Diane H, 24 December 2014.

  1. Diane H

    Diane H Active Member

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    Hi. Twelve months ago, my daughter who was 18 and on P plates, let her 16 year old friend who was unlicensed, drive her car. The car, was registered in my daughter's name, but purchased by me for $3000. The driver crashed the car into a tree. Thankfully all passengers had only minor injuries. The driver consequently had her ability to apply for a licence suspended and was fined.


    My daughter also received fines. Because our car insurance did not cover unlicensed drivers, we were unable to claim for the vehicle. It was declared a write off and has been sent to the wreckers. I made an arrangement with the driver to pay less than half of the damages, as I understand my daughter needed to be responsible for her actions and pay the remaining balance. I opened a bank account and requested the amount of $1200 to be deposited by the 12 month anniversary of the crash (about $25 per week) to avoid subjecting the young girl to legal proceedings.

    Despite assurances throughout the year that she would pay the balance, only $50 has been deposited and is now three weeks overdue. The unlicensed driver refuses to discuss the matter with me and has requested that we deal through our solicitors. I can't find specific details as to who is liable for the costs incurred by this car accident and want to make sure that my daughter and I are correct in pursuing the cost. Total loss, including value of the car, cost of recovering the vehicle from the accident site and disposal of the vehicle is approximately $3500.

    Has anyone had experience with this type of case before and how should I proceed?

    Many thanks
     
  2. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    Hi Diane,

    Your daughter's friend negligently caused damage and loss to property owned by either you or your daughter and as such she is prima facie responsible to compensate you for that loss. However, whether or not you or your daughter can pursue a legal remedy will depend on who owns the car.

    If a court were to find that you were the beneficial owner of the car, despite it being registered in your daughter's name, then you can sue for the cost of the written off car. However, as you came to an agreement that your daughter's friend would only pay half of the money and by doing that you may have waived your right to claim the full amount.

    If the court were to find that the car was your daughter's property (which I think would likely be the case), only she would have grounds to sue her friend, however because the loss arose out of illegal activity that they were both involved in I don't think a duty of care arises and therefore your daughter's friend would not be liable.

    Thoughts anyone else?
     
  3. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

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    Hi Diane,

    I agree with Sophea that first you need to figure out who owns the car. It may be possible to initiate an action in both your and your daughter's names as co-Plaintiffs. Given that the car is registered in your name, insurance is in your name, and presumably, you pay for expenses for the car, you will have some sort of ownership and therefore, right to sue. If this is the case, the driver may seek indemnity or contribution from your daughter for letter her drive, so be prepared not to receive full damages if this is the case.

    Further, do you have written affirmation of the agreement reached between you and the driver? If so, you may be able to sue her under contract as well as in tort for property damage.
     
  4. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    An argument could be made that as the agreement to pay half was not fulfilled by the unlicensed driver, and may not be able to be made anyway if she is deemed a minor (not sure what age is deemed to be legal to make contracts), then the owner of the car could sue for the entire damages.

    Though 50/50 does sound like a fair split as the daughter knowing told an unlicensed 16 old she can drive.
     
    Diane H likes this.
  5. Diane H

    Diane H Active Member

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    Thank you for very much for your input...these are all very encouraging points. I will be happy to recover whatever I can from the driver. Unfortunately, this is the second accident she has caused before getting her license and has had one since gaining her license. I hate to think she can just walk away with no accountability. :(
     
  6. John R

    John R Well-Known Member

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    Hi @Diane H
    Did you have any agreement in writing (even via email, SMS, Facebook Chat, etc.) with your daughter's friend (the driver) to repay the $1,500 as 50% of the damages from the car accident?
     
  7. Diane H

    Diane H Active Member

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    Hi John, I wrote a letter in December 2013 to the driver asking if I could sit down with her to make some kind of payment arrangement. She replied by SMS asking what I proposed and I also replied to her by sms. The arrangment was agreed upon this way. Unfortunately, these messages are not saved on my phone following a factory reset....I lost them. My daughter does have some Facebook messages from the driver mid year asking her to let me know that she has started making the payments, but nothing was deposited. I sent a second letter in October 2014 reminding of my bank details and urging the driver to contact me if she was not able to meet the commitment by the agreed date, 14/12/14, but did not receive any further contact from the driver until 11th December 2014, via Facebook message, requesting my bank details. She then deposited $50 into the account and will not respond to any of my messages asking when the rest of the funds will be deposited.
     
  8. John R

    John R Well-Known Member

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  9. Diane H

    Diane H Active Member

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    Thank you once again. We will issue a Letter of Demand and hopefully, this will resolve the matter. If not, we will take the next step with a bit more understanding of what may happen. Once again, we appreciate all the input and will let you know the outcome.
     
  10. Phildo

    Phildo Well-Known Member

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    Stuff it, issue a summons. There will be a section of the court that handles relatively minor matters in an informal way (ie no lawyers).

    As liability will be clear, you'll win that one. There will be police report somewhere that you'll want to get a copy of.

    As the person is now refusing to pay, you might as well go the full way. Legal action will also put a black mark on her credit record for the next 5 or 6 years.

    Also, claim the full amount. Give half to a suitable charity once it's been paid (eg spinal rehab place).

    Actually, this one gets interesting... it's just occurred to me that the person was under 18 at the time. This might make her parents liable for this. Speak with them.
     

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