Most of us don’t think twice about letting a close friend or family member borrow our vehicles. But if someone else crashes your car, your insurance could be held liable.
If someone else causes an accident while driving your car, the other party can pursue a claim with your insurance. By allowing another driver to use your vehicle, you’ll have to file a claim with your own insurance company if an accident occurs.
Who Is Liable If Someone Else Crashes My Car?
If someone else crashes your car, your insurance will be held liable if the person driving your vehicle is found at fault. Should an accident occur while someone else is driving your car, the claim will still have to be filed with your own insurance company.
However, if the other party is found to be at-fault for the accident, then their insurance will be held liable.
If the other driver is at fault, their insurance should cover:
- The property damage to your car
- Legal damages of the person who was driving your car.
However, you may still see your car insurance rates go up after the crash. Auto insurance companies will often justify this by saying you are more of a risk because you loaned your car to someone else.
What If The Person Who Crashed Your Car Has Their Own Insurance?
If you lend your car to someone who has their own insurance, your insurance will still be held responsible if they cause an accident.
However, if the other driver is at fault for the accident, then their insurance will be held liable, not yours. The initial claim will still have to go through your insurance policy, but you and the person who borrowed your car will not be held liable.
Because California is an at-fault state, any driver who is declared at fault for a car accident must pay for the victim’s injuries and property damage.
So, if someone borrows your car in California and is injured in an accident they didn’t cause, you’ll need to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, you’ll need to file a claim under your own uninsured motorist coverage.
What If Someone Drove My Car Without Permission?
If someone drives your car without your permission and gets into an accident, they will be liable for any accident they cause.
Generally, liability in these kinds of accidents depend on whether they were using the car with or without permission:
- Permissive use: When someone borrows your car with your consent. Permission can be verbal — it doesn’t need to be given in writing. Permissive use car insurance applies the policyholder’s protections to any other permitted drivers.
- Non-permissive use: When someone borrows your car without asking or when someone steals your vehicle. You generally won’t be liable for damages in situations where a non-permitted driver causes an accident. However, you may still need to file a claim to cover damage to your own vehicle.
Your auto insurance policy does not extend to non-permissive uses of your car. So, if someone uses your car without permission and is at fault for an accident, the claim will go through their insurance policy.
However, there’s an important exception in some states, including California. In California, if you fail to take reasonable steps to prevent someone from stealing your car, you could still be liable for a crash they cause.
For example, if you leave your keys in the ignition and someone steals and crashes your car, you could be liable for resulting damages.
Exceptions to Permissive Use Coverage
There are a few exceptions to permissive use coverage you should know.
- Permissive use doesn’t cover business-related usage of the car — unless specified in your insurance policy. Without this coverage, you will be liable for damages if someone crashes your car on a business trip
- Permissive use coverage doesn’t apply to unlicensed or unqualified drivers. Avoid loaning your car to unlicensed or inexperienced drivers because you could be liable if they cause an accident. Even if you claim that you weren’t aware the person who borrowed your car was inexperienced, your insurance company may deny coverage.
Make sure that before you allow your teen behind the wheel of your car, they’re licensed and experienced. To reduce their chances of crashing, make sure to educate them with helpful driving tips for beginners.
What If I Lent My Vehicle to Someone Who Shouldn’t Be Driving?
If you lent your vehicle to someone who shouldn’t be driving, you could be liable if they crash. This is because permissive use coverage doesn’t cover negligent entrustment.
Negligent entrustment is when you knowingly allow someone unfit to drive to use your vehicle.
Examples of negligent entrustment include:
- Allowing an intoxicated person to use your car.
- Letting a child drive your car.
- Lending your car to someone who is unlicensed or had their license suspended.
If you negligently entrust your vehicle to an unfit driver, your auto insurance would not cover you. In this case, any accident victims could hold you liable for damages and injuries.
Additionally, it’s a crime to entrust your vehicle to an unfit driver in certain states, including California. In California, adults can face misdemeanor charges if they give a vehicle to a minor who is knowingly intoxicated or has been previously convicted for certain motor vehicle violations.
Steps To Take If Someone Else Crashes Your Car
Whether the person you let borrow your car was in a major or minor accident, stay calm and follow the steps below.
First, do your due diligence and collect all the relevant information regarding the circumstances of the crash.
- Determine when, where, and how the accident happened, as well as who was involved.
- Find out whether anyone was injured, and what injuries they sustained.
- Assess the damage of the vehicles involved.
- Find out where your car was towed, if applicable.
Make sure you’re keeping record of everything that occured before, during and after the auto accident.
- Take photos of the damages. Be sure to get photos of any vehicles involved in the accident, ideally before they are moved away from the accident scene. Take photos of any other property damage caused by the accident as well.
- Get contact information for anyone involved. Obtain insurance and contact information for all drivers involved, as well as any witnesses. You should also get a copy of the police report, if applicable.
- Keep detailed records in writing. Make sure you have a hard or written copy of everything you obtain — such as any statements made by those involved.
Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer
Laws pertaining to car accidents involving someone else driving your car can be complex. So, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
A knowledgeable lawyer can assess the situation, determine your potential liability, and help you take the right next steps.
Notify Your Insurance
Finally, make sure you file a claim with your insurance company to document the accident.
Even if you weren’t the one driving — and even if the person who borrowed your car has their own insurance — you should still report the accident to your own insurance company. Encourage the driver who borrowed your car to notify their insurance company, too.
Lending your car to someone seems harmless until the worst happens. If you let someone else drive your car and they got into an accident, seek legal representation right away.
In your time of need, turn to the team at Nadrich & Cohen. We have over 30 years of experience handling car accident cases and commit ourselves to achieving the best outcome for our clients. We also offer free case evaluations and work on a contingency fee basis. This means you don’t need to pay us anything except for a percentage of your settlement if and when you win your case.