Can I be held liable for Dad's auto debt?

2 answers | Last updated: Nov 09, 2016
Stephen66 asked...

My father passed away, and my mother doesn't drive, so she lent me the use of his car. The car was purchased in his name only. I was involved in an accident and the car was totaled. The insurance company did not pay enough to satisfy the debt owed. Can the financier hold me responsible to pay the remaining debt? Neither my name nor my mother's name was on the loan.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

In general, you would be personal liable for another person’s debt only if:

  • you agreed in advance to be personally responsible, such as by co-signing or guaranteeing a particular transaction
  • you are liable for the debts because of another legal relationship that results in a duty of support, such as by claiming that person as a dependent, or
  • your negligence caused the debt, which the financier may or may not be arguing, depending on the circumstances of your accident.

And putting yourself in an uncomfortable place for a moment—the shoes of the loanholder—you might even agree that someone, somewhere should be legally responsible for paying the debt owed. As you may already be discovering, the company is likely to go after you or your mom or perhaps both of you, in an attempt to collect.

If money is especially tight and you want some advice and counsel on this matter, including how and whether to negotiate a reduced payment, contact the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.


Community Answers

Kylemyers17 answered...

our son passed away 5/16/2008 he died in my arms me and my wife never been the same we still have trouble with this.this was a financel on usall we 3800.00 they are taking me to court in there some help there if thereis please let meknow