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It is common practice to lend a vehicle to a family member or a friend. People do it without thinking twice. However, in the case of a car crash on a public road, there are legal implications not only for the driver but also for the owner of the vehicle. The Ontario Court of Appeal has recently released a decision on this topic: Desrochers v McGinnis, 2024 ONCA 63.

Ontario legislation establishes that vehicle owners are responsible for the acts and omissions of those to whom they lend their vehicles.1 Cases predating Desrochers, established that imposing responsibility on the owners of vehicles ensures car owners exercise careful management of their vehicles. When owners lend their vehicles, they assume the risk of those to whom they entrust their vehicle.

The purpose of this extended responsibility is to protect innocent victims of car crashes. Ontario Courts have understood that it is more likely that the owner of a vehicle has assets and insurance that can assist victims in their recovery after a motor vehicle accident.

Where does the responsibility stop?

In Desrochers, the Ontario Court of Appeal reviewed a further question: what if the owner of the vehicle lends the vehicle to A and A lends it to B? Will the owner be responsible if B enters a collision while operating the vehicle on a public road?

The answer is yes. In Ontario, the owner of the vehicle will still be liable if B enters a car crash. The reasons and goals behind it are the same: to protect the victims, as well as to encourage car owners to carefully manage their vehicles and to whom they give possession of the same.

Making an informed decision when lending a car

Owners have the right to lend their vehicles to others. However, the legislation encourages vehicle owners to be careful when exercising that right by placing legal responsibility on them for losses to others caused by the negligent operation of their vehicles on public roads. Vehicle owners should be aware of their responsibilities so they can make an informed decision when lending their cars.

Mariana Peres Toledo practices with the Siskinds Personal Injury department. If you have questions about the information contained within this article or any other personal injury questions, please write to [email protected] or call 226.636.1526.

1 Section 192(2) of the Highway Traffic Act.

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