A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law helped me by transporting a piece of furniture in his car, as my car was too small.

On our way home, with me following him in my own car, he ran a red light (I stopped for it).

That intersection has a traffic camera that detects running a red light, so he got a ticket in the mail today.

Should I feel obliged to help him pay it?

On the one hand, I feel a bit bad about it, since he was helping me out when he got the ticket.

On the other hand, I had no influence on his driving as I was in my own car. Also, that intersection has had that camera for years; he knows it's there. I remember me thinking at the time, "dude, what are you doing?", even though he got caught as the light changed from yellow to red.

He only just told me about the ticket; there's no indication yet that he expects me to help pay it.

  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because questions asking "should i do [x]" have been determined to be off topic here. If the question can be reworded to about how to apply specific interpersonal skills to the situation then it could be reopened. For example, if he asked you to pay for it and you wanted help navigating that conversation.
    – Rainbacon
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 17:12

7 Answers 7


There are two possible situations of this kind.

The first is, he got the ticket in the line of duty. E.g., he had to park in the "wrong place" to unload your furniture, and got a ticket as a result.

The second was he got the ticket outside of the line of duty. He ran the traffic light on his own, with no need to, and no prompting from you.

In the first case, you should pay for the ticket. If you weren't moving, he wouldn't have parked in the wrong place.

But this is the second case. He could have gotten a ticket at that intersection any day of the week. That fact that he was helping you to move at the time was "incidental," not "central," to his getting a ticket.

He knows this, which is why he didn't ask you to chip in. No need to bring up the subject on your own.



This one seems a little obvious, but he was driving, in his car, and he ran the light.

If you feel like being generous, feel free, but don't feel obligated.

It would be different if he asked you for money for gas or to pay for bridge tolls, but a red light ticket is completely avoidable. If you feel like offering some money I would place it in a "this is for your gas and time" context.


No, You are not obligated.

You should be good friends as he is your brother-in-law.

When he helped you in transferring the furniture he did because you are close.

That means he isn't waiting for a payback.

It is considered normal if you asked him for a favor and if he asked you for one.

Considering the passing-red-light part:

It is his fault, not yours, he is the one that was reckless.

If you feel a bit generous you can help him in paying the fine but you are not obligated.


I think you have received good advice already, so this is just 'what I would do'.

Firstly, you are not obligated - same as if a cab driver runs a red light, that's his problem (and he knows it), unless you specifically accepted responsibility in advance.

However, if a friend was doing me a good turn, I would offer him an amount (less than the fine) that would be reasonable for petrol/gas for his trip to help, stating: "I appreciated your help the other day and feel bad you got a ticket, but we both know that was your doing - however I'd like you to have this for your gas/petrol".

I'd do this to acknowledge my appreciation and to help him a bit with the fine. But by making it clear the fine was his doing, you and he can stop 'guessing' what the other may be thinking. {this could stew for years in silence}

The fact that you even asked the question here shows you feel 'a bit' guilty, so why not be 'a bit' helpful/kind?

  • I agree with this answer, only I would prefer to buy a small present rather than giving a few bucks for gas. An easy and cheap way to make both feel better.
    – Orbit
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 16:36

No, you're not obligated.

But nor do I like PaulInPerth's example. Cab drivers get paid for gas, wear and tear on their car, depreciation, labor/profit/opportunity cost, extra licensing/insurance, and also the extra risks they take. It's totally different than a friend doing you a favor.

[For a shorter answer, please skip to the last paragraph.]

And I also disagree with Paul about chipping in for gas now. While offering to pay for gas is usually a good idea (more gas than actually needed), I would not retroactively chip in for the gas in this case either, the timing of that gesture, now that you already know he got a ticket for helping you, would send the wrong message.

In addition to the gas, time out of his day, and the inconvenience, he took an extra risk by doing you that favor (and perhaps saved you from asking someone else or saved you from renting a moving truck). That's really what you owe him for, that intangible, not the fact that he got a ticket because of a mistake he made.

Plus, there is also the cold hard calculated fact that you might need him to help you with the same thing in the distant future (and he might feel hesitant about that, considering this experience and the fact that his skills as a driver will probably not have improved much by then). And there is also the fact that the few city people I know who own trucks, vans, SUVs, or cars large enough to carry sofas, usually get asked to help others move all the time. And by that, I really do mean all the time, there is even a bumper sticker for it.

"Yes this is my truck. No I won't help you move."

And finally, there is also the income differential. I know this shouldn't matter. But since this brother-in-law is essentially part of your family now, it could. If either he or you are currently unemployed, that traffic violation could prove very expensive.

But assuming that the income of both your households are ok enough and that this traffic ticket won't break the bank with either of you, this is what I would suggest. Don't pay him. But do arrange to pay him back more subtly in the very near future with a nice dinner for the 3 or 4 of you, or an in-kind gift he might really appreciate, or some other gesture of value that he can't refuse.


I agree with StephanB here. Your BIL has gone out of his way for your benefit, and he is worse off because of it. There is an old saying that "No good deed goes unpunished", and he is probably feeling it. Here's another saying: "If you think nobody loves you, buy a truck" and "Truck owners don't have friends - just acquaintances with furniture to move"

Especially if he does not expect it, you will do yourself a favour by making him feel that he came out of helping you a winner.


The only way you should feel obliged to help him pay for this ticket is if something about him helping you directly caused him to get the ticket, and I don't believe that his being on the road at that time, in that place, because of the help you need, counts. It is still the driver's responsibility to obey traffic laws.

Is there anything about his having your furniture in his trunk, or having you following him, or even having this overall task of yours on his mind while driving, that could be the cause of him running the light?

The light was ahead while the furniture was behind him. Unless you were crowding him (unlikely), your presence on the road behind him should have been no different than any other cars on the road. And we're supposed to drive correctly despite mental distractions.

Therefore, I see no reason to feel obliged to help pay.

If he was doing this favor for you for free and then he gets this ticket, I could see how you might feel like you ought to contribute: despite it not being your fault, if you hadn't asked for his help, he probably would have been sitting at home instead of out getting this ticket. In such a scenario, offering a little cash to help should lessen the "no good deed goes unpunished" sting.

Also note: avoiding such moral conflict is one good reason to always pay your help.


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