Am I Liable if My Friend is Driving My Car and Gets in an Accident??
Sooner or later, you’re likely to allow another driver to operate your vehicle. It might occur when you’re driving a long distance with a friend and you share the driving duties. You might toss the keys to the teen-aged valet at the local night club. You could also lend your truck to a friend who’s moving across town or whose vehicle is in the shop. These are daily situations that usually are uneventful. However, if your friend has an accident while driving your car, you could be held legally responsible.
Laws and insurance policies vary when it comes to these situations. Coverage depends on the terms of your policy, the severity of the accident and the statutes of the state. Your insurance covers your vehicle under your control. If you allow another driver to operate it, you can and will be held responsible in most situations.
In some cases, your insurance will cover the costs of the accident if your friend is driving, but coverage will not exceed the limits of your policy. If damages are greater than your policy’s limits, your friend’s insurance will cover the rest. However, before you lend your vehicle to another driver, it’s best to check your policy to be certain you’ll be covered. Some policies will not cover a driver under the age of 18 unless you have them listed as a driver on your policy.
If your car is stolen by a stranger or “appropriated” by someone you know, you won’t be responsible for any damages caused by an accident. You’re not personally responsible for accidents caused by a driver who did not have your permission to drive your car. It’s important, therefore, to report a missing vehicle to the police immediately to prevent any further complications.
If a valet driver wrecks your car, the costs will be covered by the valet parking company. If you notice your car has been damaged when a valet brings it to you, you need to get the driver’s identification and insurance information. Then you need to contact the valet’s supervisor for their insurance information. Give this data to your insurance company. Usually the parking company’s insurance covers the damage to your car. Fortunately, your rates will probably not be affected if a valet crashes your car.
If your friend has an accident that injures another driver or causes severe damage to their vehicle, you’ll be held responsible. Your insurance company will usually pay the claim and then come to you for reimbursement. They’ll also likely raise your insurance rate. If the person to whom you lent the car was not at fault, you won’t be responsible and the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay for the damage and injuries.
Your insurance company could deny coverage if it’s determined that you allowed another driver to use your car when it was in a defective condition or when the operator was somehow impaired. If you allow a drunk driver to drive you home, you’re responsible if they have an accident. If your car has no brakes and you let another driver use it, you’re responsible if there’s an accident. Your insurance company will not pay to repair your vehicle or to cover the costs of your friend or the other driver, if there is one.
A good rule of thumb is to always assume you’ll be held responsible if another driver uses your car with your permission and causes an accident. If damages exceed your insurance coverage, you could be sued for medical fees and replacement costs for the other driver’s vehicle. Therefore, it’s best to never let another driver use your car unless you’re sure they’re sober and careful.