Letting a friend or family member borrow a vehicle is a common phenomenon. In fact, in many cases, family members may even share a single vehicle (which is only registered to, and insured by, one member of the household). While there is nothing wrong with letting another person borrow your vehicle, it is important to know that if that person is in a car accident, you may be held liable for damages if the vehicle belongs to you. The following considers what you need to do if someone borrows your car and gets in an accident:
Make Sure a Report is Filed with the Police
After making sure that your friend or family member who borrowed your car is OK, you should double check that a report has been filed with the police. Hopefully, the borrower (or the other party involved in the crash) called the police immediately, and a report was filed at the scene. If not, you should ensure that a report is filed as soon as possible.
If a report has been filed, request a copy of the accident report. The accident report will be important when filing a claim, particularly if anyone in the accident has been injured or the vehicles have been damaged.
Contact Your Insurance Company
You should contact your insurance company immediately and review your insurance policy to determine who is covered under your policy when your car is involved in a wreck where you are not the driver. Who your insurance policy covers may vary, but typically:
- Anyone in your household who has a valid driver’s license is covered under your policy;
- Permissive use drivers – those to whom you gave your permission to drive your vehicle – are covered under your policy; and
- Excluded drivers – or those drivers who you specifically excluded from your policy when you purchased it – are not covered.
In addition to the above, if you did not give the driver permission to borrow your car, you may not be held liable for damages. This is typically the case when you are the victim of auto theft, or your friend takes your car without your permission.
In other words, if you allow someone to borrow your car and they cause a crash, your policy will probably be responsible for paying for the damages. If you did not allow them to borrow your car and they are insured, then their policy will likely be responsible. If the other driver involved in the crash (not your friend or family member) was at fault for the crash, then South Carolina’s at-fault laws stipulate that this driver’s insurance policy is responsible for damages.
- Note: You Could Be Named in a Lawsuit. Keep in mind that if you allowed another party to drive your car, particularly a party that had a bad driving record, such as a history of drinking and driving, and this party causes a crash, you could be named in a lawsuit by the victim. It is very important that you think seriously about loaning your car out to friends or family, as you may be responsible for paying for damages if the friend/family member causes a crash resulting in injuries.
Contact an Auto Accident Lawyer
While most people don’t think about calling a lawyer after a crash that is caused by a friend or family member in their vehicle, working with a lawyer who can review your insurance policy and advise you on what to do next is strongly advised. Again, the specifics of coverage vary on a policy-by-policy basis, and policy language can be very technical and difficult to understand for the layperson. If you are worried about whether or not your policy will pay for damages or you will be held liable for injuries to another, an attorney will help you to understand exactly what your policy says.
In the event that a lawsuit is filed against you, an attorney can also help you to understand the process. Further, if the other driver (not the person to whom you loaned your vehicle) was at fault for the crash, an attorney can help you to understand how to receive the maximum amount of compensation to repair damages to your vehicle. If you were acting as a passenger at the time of crash, an attorney can also help you receive compensation to treat your injuries.
Contact Our South Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Today
Automobile insurance is very important, but can be confusing to decipher, especially when you allow another person to drive your car and they are involved in a wreck. If you have questions about liability, please contact our experienced South Carolina auto accident attorneys at the Joye Law Firm online or by phone for your free consultation.