Who Is Liable In A Car Accident Owner Or Driver?

If another person wrecked your car while driving it, determining whose insurance policy pays out can be a confusing process. Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this question. It depends on the policies involved and on the situation that led to another driver being behind the wheel of your car.

If you loaned your car to a friend or family member and they caused a car accident while driving it, you may want to meet with a car accident lawyer. This is especially true if your friend or family member does not have auto liability coverage of their own.

At the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC, we can help you understand your Tennessee car insurance policy and its limitations when it comes to other drivers. Call us today at 865-546-1111 to schedule a consultation with one of attorneys.

Will my liability insurance cover damages if I let a friend borrow my car and he caused a crash?

Many people believe the at-fault driver’s liability insurance always steps up and covers damages after a crash. While this is generally true, one of the exceptions to this rule is when that driver is behind the wheel of someone else’s car.

Liability coverage does not always follow the driver. In fact, the car owner’s policy is the most common insurance policy to pay out when a driver crashes a borrowed car.

How much coverage this policy offers, however, depends on its language. Generally, as long as you gave the other driver permission to drive your vehicle, your insurance will pay out. Some do offer limited coverage when someone else is behind the wheel, so it pays to know what your policy says before allowing someone else to drive your car.

It is true that many insurance policies cover drivers no matter what car they are driving. But this coverage is typically secondary to the car owner’s policy. These policies may also include limitations and exceptions. Some will only pay if the driver’s usual vehicle is unavailable, for example.

Imagine you loaned your neighbor your car. He did not stop in time and rear-ended another vehicle at a stop sign. Your insurance would cover the damage to the other person’s car and their medical bills up to its policy limits. If their damages exceed these limits, your neighbor’s auto liability policy should kick in to cover the excess. To repair your vehicle, you will need to carry optional collision coverage, file a claim, and pay your deductible.

The best way to understand how much liability coverage is available after a friend crashes your car is to discuss your situation with our skilled car accident attorneys. We can answer your car accident questions, help you understand the limits of your policy, and let you know what to expect during the claims process.

Am I personally liable for an accident a friend caused in my car?

If you are the owner of the car, your insurance company is likely the primary liability coverage after a crash. Your insurance will pay up to its limits before your friend’s coverage takes over. There are some cases, however, when you might be personally liable for any amount above your policy maximum or for the entire amount.

This is sometimes known as “owner’s liability” or “negligent entrustment.” Under some conditions, people who suffer damages in a car accident can file a lawsuit against both the driver of a borrowed car and the owner of that car.

Excluded Drivers

Auto insurance policies typically include all family members of driving age who live in the home. Occasionally, people need to exclude one or more of these family members from their auto insurance policy in order to bring costs down.

For example, having your 22-year-old son with a poor driving record on the policy covering a sports car may increase the cost of coverage dramatically. But if you exclude your son and he then borrows that car and wrecks it, the insurance company will deny any claims.

Unlicensed or Incompetent Drivers

You know your brother does not have a license but he needs to borrow the car to run a few errands. Or you know your friend has a history of reckless driving but you trust he will drive responsibility while behind the wheel of your car. If you knowingly loan your car to an irresponsible, incompetent, or unlicensed driver, your insurance company may deny your claim. Even if they pay out, the accident victims could sue you based on your negligence.

Drunk Drivers

Never loan your vehicle to someone who has been drinking or who has a history of drinking and driving. It pays to ensure anyone you allow to drive your vehicle is sober and not under the influence of drugs. This can even include over-the-counter drugs that make them drowsy. If you loan your car to someone who is drunk, drugged, or drowsy, you could be partially liable for any accidents they cause. 

Defective Vehicle

While this is rare, occasionally a problem with a car or car part causes an accident. If you knew—or should have known—there was an issue with your vehicle, you could be liable if that issue causes an accident.

If you believe one of these conditions may have played a factor in your case, contact one of our Knoxville car accident attorneys as soon as possible. You will need someone on your side to help you understand complex liability issues and to aggressively protect your assets.

How can I reach a knowledgeable car accident lawyer?

At the Law Offices of Ogle, Elrod & Baril, PLLC, we can help you understand how your auto insurance policy works. We can analyze the coverage available based on your policy and any other policies in play. We will work to mitigate the effect this accident has on your financial health and help you minimize your liability in the crash. Call our office today at 865-546-1111 to schedule a time to meet with one of our lawyers.