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Am I Liable If Someone Else Crashed My Car?

Anyone with a car has probably loaned it to another person at some point. One might be helping a friend whose car is in the shop or doing a favor for someone who needs to run errands. Whatever the case may be, it is worth considering the risks before allowing another person to drive one’s car.

Typically, when a person lets another person drive their car, they assume responsibility for any damage that occurs if their vehicle is involved in an accident. It changes when a person takes a car that is not theirs without permission or breaks the law while driving. This is important to considering before allowing someone to borrow a car.

What is a Permissible Driver?

A permissible driver refers to an individual who is not listed on a policy but drives the car periodically with the insured person’s consent. Periodically is considered around 12 times every year or less. A teen driver who uses a parent’s vehicle is an example of a permissible driver. The parent must give their child permission to borrow the car. Most standard insurance policies allow for permissible drivers.

When the permissible driver is behind the wheel, they are covered primarily under the insured person’s policy, regardless of whether the policy holder is in the car or not. If they crash the car, the policy holder’s collision insurance covers any damage done to the primary vehicle. Their liability insurance covers damage to other vehicles and costs related to injuries. However, extenuating circumstances can change liability and costs.

Types of Auto Insurance Coverage

It is important to review the different types of auto insurance that is available. The information will be helpful should a car accident occur. The types of auto insurance coverage include:

  • Collision coverage: Covers accident-related damage to vehicles and objects, this is usually a requirement to finance or lease a car.
  • Comprehensive coverage: This covers non-crash related events, such as poor weather, vandalism, or theft.
  • Gap insurance: Gap insurance makes up the difference between what the insurance pays for a stolen car and what the owner still owes on the vehicle.
  • Liability coverage: This covers personal injuries and property damage.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): PIP covers medical costs and a range of other expenses for the holder, regardless of fault.

It is a common misconception that a person’s car insurance policy transfers to every vehicle they drive. That is not always the case. Generally, it is the vehicle owner’s policy that covers the car, regardless of who is driving. Should a crash occur in a borrowed vehicle, not only does the owner’s car insurance provide the primary coverage, but their rates may go up as a result.

When Does the Permissive Driver’s Insurance Activate?

When someone gives another person permission to drive their car and that permissive driver causes a collision, their auto insurance only initiates under certain circumstances. The vehicle owner’s collision coverage pays for damages done to their own car. The owner’s liability coverage pays for any damages caused by the permissive driver. If the combined coverage is not enough to pay for the total accident damage amount, then the permissive driver must use their own liability coverage.

Are There Exceptions?

Vehicle owners may not be responsible in certain circumstances, including:

Impaired Drivers: If the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when the crashed occurred, they are liable for injuries and property damage. It is important to note that circumstances might change if the owner of the car knew that the person was under the influence. In that case, the owner who gave permission can be held liable.

Non-Permissive Drivers: It can be difficult to prove that someone took another person’s vehicle without permission, especially if they are friends or family members. However, if the owner can show they forbade someone from using their vehicle, the non-permissive driver is likely to be found responsible for damages.

Unlicensed Drivers: It is illegal to drive a car without a driver’s license. If an unlicensed driver uses another person’s car without permission and gets into an accident, that driver will most likely have to pay the costs of property damage and injuries.

Theft: When a car is stolen and involved in a crash, the owner’s car insurance will cover damages in most cases. Unfortunately, it does not include any personal items in the car when it was stolen or damaged. In some cases, they are covered under homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance.

Uninsured Drivers: It is important to consider the consequences before loaning a car to a friend or family member. If they are involved in a collision and the total damages exceed the vehicle owner’s policy liability limits, the injured party can sue them. If they are unable to pay, the court can go after their personal assets, including homes, saving accounts, and retirement funds.

No-Fault Considerations for Permissible Drivers

Pennsylvania requires drivers to purchase PIP insurance. PIP is different than liability insurance because it follows the driver, not the vehicle. If someone lends their car to a friend with PIP coverage and they are in an accident, the permissible driver’s PIP should cover most medical bills. If they do not have PIP coverage or share a household with someone who does, the owner of the car may have to pay medical expenses. Pennsylvania drivers must purchase a minimum of $5,000 in PIP coverage. In no-fault states like Pennsylvania, the individual buys PIP insurance to cover damages for an accident, regardless of who caused the crash.

What is a Verbal Threshold?

Pennsylvania follows the principle of verbal threshold. Verbal threshold means an accident injury must involve partial or total loss of a body part or its function in order to sue a reckless party. Verbal threshold makes it difficult to take legal action against a careless driver unless the injuries are serious. Since insurance laws vary by state, it can be challenging to figure out exactly who is required to pay for medical expenses and property damage. That is why anyone involved in a serious accident should consult with an experienced car accident lawyer.

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Victims Injured in All Types of Car Accidents

Lending a car to a friend or family member may seem helpful, but it could lead to costly consequences, especially if they act negligently with your car. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC will assess every detail of your situation and provide premium legal guidance. Call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.