Someone Got into a Car Accident with My Car
When your friend first asked to borrow your car, you may have had misgivings. Accidents were always a possibility, but you brushed the thought away and sent them off with your blessing. Now, the worst has happened, and as you rush to dig out your insurance papers, you realize that you might have made a big mistake. Do you fully understand your insurance coverage? In a situation of this nature, do you really have a clue as to how it works?
In dealings with our clients, we have come to realize that many people are not completely familiar with the extent of their auto insurance coverage in this regard. In truth, it can vary from one policy to another. However, it is generally understood that automobile insurance follows the car and not its driver. If someone else has an accident while driving your vehicle, your insurance, not theirs, will take the hit.
Although every policy is different, most in general will cover everybody living under your roof. Some, however, will limit that additional coverage only to people whom you explicitly list on the policy by name. Others will bar from coverage any persons that you specifically wish to exclude.
Loaning Your Car to Someone Who Does Not Live with You
You will probably be safe loaning your car occasionally to a friend or family member who does not live under your roof. However, not all policies will allow for this. Those that do may very well refuse to cover a resulting accident if the person who was driving the car at the time happened to be:
- Using the car for business reasons.
- Unlicensed, inexperienced or underage.
If your car should come to grief after you have made the mistake of willingly loaning it to someone that fits either of those two descriptions, don’t expect your insurance to come to your rescue. The onus will be on you.
Car Insurance Covers the Car and Not the Driver
Although not everyone is aware of the fact, your automobile policy exists to follow the vehicle itself and not the person who sits behind the wheel. When you loan your car to someone who is not excluded under your policy and that person has an accident, your insurance, not theirs, will provide the primary coverage. The insurance of the person to whom you handed over the keys would act as excess or secondary coverage.
For example, if someone to whom you have loaned your car is at fault for subsequently causing an accident while driving it, it will be your responsibility to:
- File a claim with your insurer.
- Pay any applicable deductible.
- Suffer any rate hikes that may subsequently result.
We have found that if the damages exceed what your insurance policy can or will agree to pay, the driver’s insurance will normally take up the slack. If, on the other hand, the person to whom you loaned the car was not at fault for the accident in question, the at-fault driver’s insurance will be responsible and yours will not take the hit.
When a Driver You’ve Excluded Borrows Your Car
There are any number of reasons why you might exclude a certain driver from coverage through your auto insurance policy. That person might have a drinking problem, or maybe his driving habits are just too erratic. If the excluded individual takes your car anyway and has a subsequent accident, you will need to demonstrate that the person who was driving had taken the car with neither your knowledge nor your permission.
This can be a tricky thing to prove. Unless you succeed in doing this, the odds are good that your insurer will refuse to pay. However, if you can prove that your car was stolen or that the friend or family member who was driving at the time had taken the car without your consent, you may be in the clear.
This type of situation is rarely cut-and-dried. When someone has an accident while driving your car, your fate could range from being found free of responsibility to being sued. The chance of facing a personal injury suit is a particular threat to people who have knowingly allowed the use of their car to someone who was under the influence, lacking a license or simply too young to drive.
Fortunately, the attorneys at Gregory & Waldo are familiar with cases of this type, and we can advise and defend you if the need should arise. Don’t wait until things get entirely out of hand. Call today for a free consultation and see what we can do to help.