Your car is your property as long as it was sold and registered under your name. Whatever happens to it is your responsibility, but does that include a crash caused by someone else who drives your vehicle?
The answer to that depends on a variety of factors, such as who caused the accident, who was driving your car, the terms of your insurance policy, and whether or not you permitted them to drive the vehicle.
Who is Liable If Someone Else Gets Into an Accident with Your Car?
A general rule in car crash cases is that the person who caused the accident is liable for the damages. Therefore, if the other driver is found to be at fault, their insurance company will be required to pay for the victim’s medical bills, property damage, loss of wages, and other legal damages.
If, however, the person driving your car is found to be at fault for the accident, two things can determine your liability as the vehicle owner. Those are the terms of your auto insurance policy and whether or not you gave them permission to use your car.
Auto Insurance Policy Coverage
Insurance policies typically cover damage to the vehicle and have liability coverage that extends to the person driving it. This usually covers any driver, even if they’re not the vehicle owner.
However, some policies have exceptions to their liability coverage. For example, your policy expressly states that the coverage will not include drivers who drove your car without your permission, which brings us to the doctrine of permissive use.
Permissive Use vs. Non-Permissive Use
According to the permissive use doctrine, a driver that drove your vehicle with your permission is covered by your insurance policy. So if they get into an accident with your car, your insurance will be the primary coverage for the damages.
Suppose your insurance policy has been exhausted, and the person driving your car also has an insurance policy of their own. In that case, it will serve as the secondary coverage to pay for the remaining balance.
Non-permissive use, on the other hand, happens if you don’t give the driver permission to use your vehicle. In the case of non-permissive use, the driver will be held liable for the damages incurred from the accident. However, your insurance company will not be responsible for compensating the victim.
What To Do If Someone Else Gets Into an Accident with Your Car
If someone else drove your car and got into an accident, you need to act quickly and gather evidence that will help you in your claim or support your defense.
Call a Lawyer
Regardless of whether or not you’re directly involved, a car accident can be overwhelming. Calling a car accident attorney as soon as possible will give you the guidance you need to move forward — whether filing a claim against the at-fault driver or defending yourself in a lawsuit.
A lawyer can clarify the accident's details and speak to your insurance provider on your behalf to ensure the whole process goes smoothly. Backed by their experience and legal knowledge, they can help protect your rights in a car accident case.
Understand Your Insurance Coverage
As we’ve established, reading the fine print in your insurance coverage can determine your liability in a car accident case. Your lawyer can help you read and understand your insurance policy and speak with your insurance provider to negotiate a fair settlement.
Document the Accident
Evidence is crucial in a car accident claim. Ensure that you or the person driving your car knows to document the accident as soon as it happens. This can include taking photos of the scene, getting the other driver's and witnesses' contact information, and calling the police.
Any evidence preserved after a car accident case will go a long way in supporting your claim or defending you in a lawsuit.