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What Happens if Someone Else is Driving My Car and Gets in an Accident?

This is a common situation. Many people let friends or family members drive their vehicle, only to have them get into an accident. They contact our firm with many questions, particularly about liability for the collision.

Under California law, everything depends on who caused the accident and the terms of your insurance policy. Our attorney, Brian P. Azemika, looks at some examples below.

Scenario #1: Another Driver Caused the Crash

You might have let your cousin drive your car to a doctor’s appointment, only to have her get rear-ended in the parking lot. However, the driver who struck her is at fault because he was texting while driving and following too closely.

In California, the general rule is that the driver who is responsible for the accident is legally liable. In this example, your cousin is not responsible—the other driver is. As a result, the other driver’s insurance policy should cover damage to your car and any damages suffered by your cousin, like medical bills to treat whiplash or another bodily injury.

Scenario #2: The Person Who Borrowed Your Car Caused the Crash

This is the situation you want to avoid. You lent your car to someone, and they got into an accident because they weren’t driving carefully. Maybe they were speeding, or maybe they were texting and driving. Whatever the reason, they caused the accident and hit someone else.

In this example, we need to look at your insurance policy. Most policies cover the vehicle. Consequently, your car insurance should be available to pay compensation to the victim hurt in the crash. California requires that motorists carry insurance with a minimum coverage of $15,000 per person for injury or death, and up to $30,000 for more than one victim in a crash. You should also have $5,000 in property damage coverage.

What happens if the victim suffers damages in excess of your policy? In that situation, they can look to any insurance held by the driver who borrowed your vehicle. Their insurance is called secondary coverage, whereas your insurance (as the car owner) is primary coverage.

Can You Be Sued?

Sometimes, the primary and secondary insurance combined is not enough to fully compensate a victim for their losses. In that situation, can you be sued as the car owner? The answer is “it depends.” Generally, the person who drove negligently is personally liable to the victim, so the victim could sue whoever borrowed your car and drove carelessly.

In some situations, the victim might sue you for negligent entrustment. This occurs when you lend your car to someone who is likely to misuse it. For example, you might get sued if you gave your keys to a drunk friend or a person without a valid driver’s license. These people are likely to drive dangerously, which means you could be sued by anyone they end up hitting.

Contact Us to Discuss Your Case

Accidents leave many victims in a deep financial hole. We can discuss whether you can sue for compensation following a crash.