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Are Dealerships Liable for Car Accidents That Occur During Test Drives?

March 22, 2016 | 2 min read

The Colorado Court of Appeals recently addressed the question of dealership liability for test drive crashes in the wake of a car accident in just such a scenario. The incident occurred when an area woman collided with another vehicle during a test drive in Littleton. The driver made an ill-fated left turn into traffic flowing in the opposite direction, colliding with one of the approaching vehicles.

Dealership may be on the hook

The car accident victim, in this case, filed a negligence suit against both the other driver and the Ford dealership. The victim argued that the customer and dealership were involved in a relationship known under the law as a “joint venture.” The appeals court agreed based on the fact that “both participants had a common interest in conducting the test drive successfully to complete the transaction,” in light of the fact that they had already agreed on a price for the car.

Same goal

The court also pointed to evidence that both the customer and the sales representative had the right to control the car, indicating that both bore liability. In light of the driver’s and dealership’s common goal and shared right to control the vehicle, the court held that the dealership was liable for the negligence of the driver and the resulting damages. This was the first time that the joint venture rule has been applied to a test drive in Colorado.

Responsible parties beyond the negligent driver

As this case demonstrates, there may be legally responsible parties beyond the negligent driver, including employers and owners who allow others to operate their vehicles. Knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorneys can analyze the facts surrounding accidents and identify responsible parties to help recover compensation for persons injured in motor vehicle accidents.