Auto insurance follows the car, not the driver, so if you let a friend or relative drive your car and they get in an accident that’s their fault, your insurance policy is the primary policy. Your friend’s auto insurance will provide secondary coverage.
Finding out that someone else was in an accident with your car is almost as stressful as being in an accident yourself. Legally, you will not be personally liable in most cases, although your insurance policy does provide primary coverage. You may also have to pay the deductible.
However, if you lend your car to someone who is drunk, doesn’t have a license, or is specifically excluded from your insurance, they may not be covered and you are taking a big risk.
Will I have to pay for the damage if my friend has an accident in my car?
The answer depends on whether your friend was at fault and whether your friend had your permission to use the car:
- If another driver caused the accident, the other driver and their insurance company will be responsible for paying for the damage, and your insurance will not be affected.
- If your friend is at fault in the accident, your insurance policy will be the primary one covering the damage. You will need to file a claim with your insurance company, and you will be responsible for any deductibles. Your insurance premiums may go up because of the accident.
Sometimes, your own insurance is not enough to cover the costs. In that case:
- If your friend has insurance, their policy can provide secondary coverage to pick up where your insurance left off.
- If your friend is uninsured, you will be on the hook for any damage that exceeds your insurance policy limits.
What if my car was stolen?
You’re not liable.
You and your insurance company are never liable to other drivers for damage caused by a car thief. If your car is stolen and then damaged in an accident, your collision coverage will typically pay for the damage to your car.
However, if the person who stole your car was a friend or family member who decided to “borrow” it without your permission, you and your insurance company will probably be liable damages. This is because it’s extremely difficult to prove that a friend didn’t have your permission to use the car.
If your lawyer can show that your friend didn’t have permission, then your friend will typically be the one responsible, and your insurance will only act as secondary insurance to fill in the gaps.
If your friend does not have insurance, your coverage will typically pay for damages.
What the driver was excluded from my insurance policy?
If you have a family member with a poor driving record, you may have excluded them from your insurance policy to bring down your insurance premiums. But if you let the excluded person drive your car and they have an accident that is their fault, your insurance policy will not cover it. That means that you and the driver will both be personally liable for the damage.
If the excluded driver took the car without your permission, you may be able to avoid liability, but you may need a lawyer’s help to prove that you should not be held responsible. If you are going to exclude household members from a policy, make sure they do not ever drive your car.
What if the person driving was drunk or didn’t have a license?
Letting someone drive your car when you know they are drunk or don’t have a driver’s license can expose you to additional liability. People with a history of DUIs or substance abuse problems can be very good at convincing you that it’s ok to let them take the car for a short drive, but if you say “yes,” you are putting yourself at risk.
Most insurance companies have a clause that excludes unlicensed drivers from coverage. That means that if you lend your car to someone without a license, you and the driver can both expect to be liable for all the damage—without any help from insurance.
What if I loaned my car to my roommate?
If your roommate (or girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.) uses the car regularly, the insurance company may scrutinize the case.
If someone else drives your car regularly, including a roommate, nanny or caregiver, your insurance company may require that they be added to your policy as an additional insured driver. If someone uses your car regularly and they are not listed on your policy, your insurance company could refuse to pay for damage.
Who has the final word on whether my insurance covers the accident?
The insurance policy will spell out the details, but you should not trust insurers to apply it fairly.
Insurers have an incentive to avoid paying out on claims—even legitimate ones. That means they may challenge whether you knew the person was using the car, whether the person uses it regularly, and (in a DUI) whether you knew they were intoxicated. But often, they don’t have any hard evidence to back up their claim. They are hoping you just accept it and pay the bill. Don’t believe them—you may have a claim anyway.
Your personal injury lawyer can help you understand your rights and responsibilities, and can fight for your claim or any Atlanta car accident law suits that resulted from the accident.
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