What Happens if Someone Borrows My Car and Gets into an Accident? Am I liable?

Does My Insurance Cover my Car if I Let Someone Borrow It?

It’s your vehicle. At least, it was. It now sits barely recognizable, crushed as the result of a serious accident. Others suffered injury in this crash, and the property damage has risen sky-high. Right now, you have just one question to ask: Will the law be finding me liable even though I wasn’t even driving?

You’re sure that the accident could not have been your fault. After all, you were not the person driving your car at the time. If that’s what you’re thinking, would you be right? The answer depends on whether:

– Your policy covers the person who was driving your car.
– The driver was a relative who lives with you.
– The driver was a relative from out of town.
– Someone borrowed your car without your knowledge.
– Your car was taken by a thief in the night.
– Your policy specifically excludes that driver from coverage.
– You handed the driver the keys to your car with full knowledge that your policy excluded him.

In other words, it all depends.

When a Driver Other Than You Drives and Crashes Your Car

You may not realize it now, but your auto liability policy does not necessarily cover any driver other than yourself. Some people assume that unless they have specifically excluded one or more people living under their roof, the coverage extends to them as well. This is not always true. Many policies will decline to cover others who share your living space unless you have specifically listed by name as potential operators of your vehicle.

The same may be true of family members and friends who live apart from you but could potentially borrow your car on occasion. The concept of permissive use holds that if you’ve expressly allowed someone to operate your car, your insurance, not theirs, will be responsible for covering any subsequent accident. That’s because car insurance always follows the vehicle, not the driver, and if someone borrows your car with your permission and rear-ends someone along the way, your own insurance will serve as the primary coverage.

How Your Primary Coverage Works

The bottom line is that when someone to whom you have loaned your car causes an accident that injures another person or damages someone’s property, you are liable, and your insurance will be the first in line to cover their costs. It will therefore be your responsibility to:

– File the claim with your insurance company.
– Pay down the deductible.
– Swallow any rate hikes that may happen as a result.

The insurance of the driver to whom you had loaned the car has secondary status. It will not come into play unless and until the damage exceeds the limits of your own coverage.

However, if your car is in an accident while being driven by someone who is not covered by your auto insurance policy or by one whom your coverage specifically excludes, what happens next will depend in large part on whether you gave that person permission to use the vehicle.

Maybe you didn’t, but if not, you might find that distinction hard to prove. Unless you succeed in the endeavor, you will find yourself liable for any resulting damages. The same is true if you gave a certain person permission to use the vehicle despite knowing that he or she had no coverage under your insurance policy.

On the other hand:

– If an accident occurs at the hands of someone who has stolen your car, you should not be personally liable for any damage that results.
– If a friend with insurance of his own takes the car without permission, his or her coverage would serve as primary payer with yours kicking in secondarily only if necessary.
– If the friend who has taken your car without your approval should turn out to be completely uninsured, your insurance would pay depending on some factors:

  1. Was there an assumption of permission?
  2. Does the friend reside with you?
  3. Had you given permission before?
  4. Did you leave the keys out and easily accessible to him?

If there is no implied permission, then your insurance will probably not cover the accident.

If You Are the Victim in a Case Like This

Anyone who suffers a physical injury and/or property damage in a vehicular accident caused by someone driving a car other than his own has the right to collect damages as compensation. There may, however, be a question as to whose insurance would be ultimately responsible. If you find yourself in a comparable situation, the personal injury lawyers at Lloyd Baker Attorneys can help you sort this out. To benefit from our experience in handling cases of this nature, give our office a call today.