Am I Liable if a Friend Has an Accident with My Car?

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Friends in a Car

You did a nice gesture and let a friend borrow your car, but something unfortunate happened. They got into a car accident. Not only is your friendship in jeopardy, but also you are left with costly and inconvenient auto repairs, not to mention a likely increase in your car insurance.

It is not always easy to figure out who is responsible for a car accident when someone is driving another person’s vehicle. This discussion explores several possible situations to help you determine if you are liable when a friend has an accident with your vehicle.

Auto Insurance Follows the Vehicle, Not the Driver

Car insurance usually follows the vehicle, not the person driving it. Therefore, if you allowed a friend to drive your car and they cause an accident, your auto insurance will most likely cover any injuries or vehicle damage.  Specifically, your collision coverage would cover damage to your car, and your liability coverage would cover injuries to your friend or anyone else hurt in the accident.

This is true provided that your friend is a licensed driver and borrows your car only sporadically. If you let a friend or anyone drive your car on a regular basis, you need to list them on your policy.

Exceptions that May Affect Coverage

Auto insurance claims are complex, and there are several exceptions to the example above.

Let us say the accident was serious, multiple vehicles were damaged, and several passengers got hurt. Your friend’s auto insurance may be used to fill the gap if the costs of medical bills and auto repairs exceed your policy limits. However, if the friend who borrowed your car did not cause the accident, the other at-fault driver may be financially responsible for the damages.

Did You Give Permission to Drive Your Car?

When determining who will be responsible for damages from a car accident, the issue of permissive versus non-permissive use comes into play. As the term suggests, permissive use means the other person had your permission to drive your car periodically. Most insurance companies consider periodic use to be less than 12 times per year.

Now, let us say your roommate borrows your car without asking and gets into a serious collision. That is considered non-permissive use and may impact the insurance claim. In that case, their auto insurance may be used as the primary coverage instead of yours. If they do not have insurance, you must use your policy for injuries or damages.

When a Careless Driver Causes an Accident

Here is another circumstance to be considered. What if your friend’s reckless actions directly caused an accident, passenger injuries, and damage to multiple vehicles?

Examples of reckless driving behaviors include the following:

  • Aggressive driving: Aggressive driving includes speeding, tailgating, turning or changing lanes without signaling, brake-checking, and disregarding traffic signs and signals.
  • Drowsy driving: Fatigue seriously impacts the driver’s motor skills, their ability to make good decisions, and their ability to react safely and quickly.
  • Distracted driving: Looking away from the road or taking one’s hands off the wheels for just two to three seconds is enough to cause a serious auto accident.
  • Impaired driving: Using alcohol and/or illegal or legal drugs before driving can seriously impede a person’s ability to safely operate a moving vehicle.

If your friend broke the law by driving drunk or texting while driving prior to the accident, your insurance company may deny any claim for resulting injuries or damage.

Knowing When to Lend Your Car

Of course, there are times when we need to borrow someone’s car. But before you let someone use your car, ask yourself if you truly trust them to be safe. If you know your friend is an aggressive driver, but you allow them to borrow your car anyway, you may be responsible for damages and injuries they cause.

The more obvious example is if you are out with a friend who has been drinking beer for several hours and you give them your keys to drive home, you may be partially responsible if they crash your car. If your friend has a history of traffic tickets and accidents, it is probably best to think twice before letting them take the wheel of your car.

Examples of Accident Scenarios Involving Borrowed Vehicles

If all these variables sound a bit confusing, it is understandable. Here are a few examples of accident scenarios to help you determine which applies to you, and ultimately who may be liable for the costs associated a car accident.

Accident scenario 1: You let a friend borrow your car, and they hit a mailbox while driving.

This case is permissive because you willingly allowed your friend to use your car. If they have a minor fender-bender causing no injuries and only minimal damage to your car, your insurance will pay for repairs. Note that you will have a deductible to pay, and your rates are likely to go up as well.

Accident scenario 2: Your friend takes your car without asking and ends up rear-ending another vehicle at a red light

If your friend drives your car without your permission and causes an accident, it is unlikely you are responsible. If that friend has car insurance, their policy will be used first.

If your friend will not admit taking the car, this scenario can become a  situation in which your friend says you knew they were using your car, and you claim you had no idea they took it.

Complex accident claims such as this may benefit from the guidance of a skilled car accident lawyer to help prove the facts of the case and pursue justice on your behalf.

Accident scenario 3: Your friend who is uninsured causes a multi-vehicle collision while driving your car

If your uninsured friend causes a serious accident in which people get hurt or die of their injuries, it becomes your problem.

If the costs for injuries and property damage exceed your policy limits, the injured party can sue you for the remaining damages. If those damages are substantial, your home, your savings, and other assets may be at stake.

Accident scenario 4: Your friend borrows your car and is involved in an accident, only for you to discover their license is suspended

Finding out a friend who drove your car was in an accident is one thing. Finding out they have a suspended driver’s license, or do not have one at all, is much more problematic.

Many auto insurance providers have a clause that excludes coverage for unlicensed drivers. If your friend does not have a valid license, they probably do not have insurance either. That leaves you to be responsible for any injuries and damage they may have caused, even if you were not driving.

It is important to note that some limited car insurance policies exclude any other driver besides the policy holder, even if they are related and live in the same house. If you have this type of policy, you should avoid letting anyone else drive your car unless it is an emergency.

Think Twice Before Letting a Friend Drive Your Car

If your car was involved in an accident, no matter who was driving, your insurance rates are likely to go up at renewal time simply because there was a claim on your policy. The wisest piece of advice is to be very selective about lending your vehicle.

If you do hand over the keys, make sure that person has a valid driver’s license, carries car insurance, and has a good driving record. Being smart in this way can save you time, money, and even friendship.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Injured by Careless Drivers

If you were injured in a serious motor vehicle accident, the other driver’s insurance may not be enough to cover your medical bills, lost income, and auto repairs. To find out your legal options after an accident that was not your fault, reach out to the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will do what it takes to prove the facts of your case and recover the compensation you deserve for all the ways an accident impacted your life. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.