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Am I Liable for Damages When Someone Causes an Accident While Driving My Car?

Posted in Car Accidents on February 3, 2021

When you let a friend borrow your car, you probably don’t talk about being liable for any accidents they cause. That’s not a very friendly conversation to have when they’re about to drive away. Besides, if you’re like many vehicle owners, you probably can’t imagine that your friend would crash your car. You simply hand over your keys, and you put any negative thoughts out of your mind.

If you don’t consider that your friend might have an accident, you won’t likely anticipate the potential legal and financial repercussions. Not only will you pay a hefty deductible when you get your car repaired, but your insurance premiums will likely go up. You’ll be responsible for any damage or injuries your friend causes. You could also end up in court defending yourself against a personal injury lawsuit.

You Are Responsible For Damages Involving Your Car

When a friend drives your car and causes an accident, you can’t avoid the responsibility. While your negligence might not have caused the crash, your insurance policy will probably pay anyway. Louisiana Revised Statutes Part I-A §RS 32:861 explains the state’s Compulsory Motor Vehicle Liability Security requirement. You must have liability insurance coverage to pay for damages and injuries involving your car. If you don’t maintain insurance, you risk license plate surrender, license suspension, or vehicle impoundment.

When a licensed driver operates a vehicle, he must have insurance, but a driver’s liability coverage is usually associated with the vehicle he drives. When someone drives your car, they rely on your liability insurance to pay if they have an accident. Even if your friend has a car, while he’s driving your car, your insurance is primary. If neither of you has insurance, a car accident puts both you and your driver at risk for a license suspension and other penalties.

Did You Negligently Entrust Your Car to a Bad Driver?

If your friend is usually a safe driver, you would have no reason to suspect that he might crash your car. It’s a different situation if you knew he had a history of reckless operation, speeding, or drunk driving, and you loaned him your car anyway. If your friend injures someone, the victim can make a case against you for negligently entrusting your car to a bad driver. Instead of being the innocent vehicle owner, you become a direct contributor to the circumstances that caused the accident. Your negligent entrustment gives an injured victim an additional cause of action against you personally.

Did You Negligently Maintain Your Car?

Bad maintenance is another way you can be personally negligent when someone else is driving your car. Maintenance failures are relevant if they cause or contribute to an accident. This often occurs with neglected maintenance issues such as bad brakes or aging tires.

What if You Didn’t Give Permission to Use Your Car?

If a friend uses your car without permission, it usually relieves you of legal responsibility for any damage he causes. The actions are similar to what happens when a thief steals your car and crashes into another vehicle. If a friend takes your car without permission, the police may consider his actions as theft.

Your legal responsibility changes when the person driving your car doesn’t have your express permission. Unfortunately, the idea of permission gets a little complicated when the driver believes he has your implied permission.

  • Express Permission: You give verbal or written authorization for your friend to use your car.
  • Implied Permission: Your friend believes he has permission to use your car. Perhaps you handed him your keys without any specific instructions, and he thought you were offering to let him use your car.

Whether express or implied, permission becomes invalid when the person borrowing your car exceeds reasonable expectations for permissive use.

  • You give your friend permission to drive your car, and he takes it on a cross-country trip.
  • You allow your friend to drive, and he lets his girlfriend use your car without your permission.
  • Your friend doesn’t return your car until days or weeks after you expect him to.

Will Your Insurance Policy Provide Coverage?

Insurance follows the car. That’s a longstanding concept that has simplified insurance claim coverage decisions. Although coverage follows the car, many insurance companies find ways to exclude certain drivers.

Traditional insurance companies write Personal Auto Policies using standard ISO forms. If you have a PAP policy, it usually covers anyone driving your car if they have a reasonable belief that they are entitled to do so. The Personal Auto Policy usually excludes coverage for commercial use, intentional acts, livery use (such as Uber or Lyft), and other specific situations. If you have a high-risk policy or a discount premium policy, you likely have provisions or endorsements that severely limit who is covered while driving your car.

  • Named driver policies provide coverage only for the specific drivers listed.
  • Excluded driver policies or endorsements disallow coverage for specific drivers, often a spouse who has a bad driving record.
  • Some policies exclude licensed drivers who are living in your home but not rated on your policy.

Be Cautious Before Lending Someone Your Car

It’s difficult to question a friend about their driving history. If you plan to let them borrow your car, you really have no choice. If your friend is a bad driver, you should know before you hand over your keys. You can choose not to lend him your car. If you do let your bad driving friend borrow your car anyway, you can prepare ahead of time for the potential consequences.

The Law Offices of John Redmann

If you are involved in an accident, consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Attorneys investigate your accident and evaluate liability and coverage issues while the evidence is still fresh. They intervene with responsible parties and insurance companies to protect your legal rights from the early post-accident stages.

The Law Offices of John Redmann has offices in Gretna and Metairie, Louisiana. To schedule a complimentary legal consultation, call us at 504-500-5000.