It's impossible to predict a future car crash, and as careful as we all are behind the wheel, you'll never know when a fateful moment will happen in which your vehicle gets into a car accident. Even if you are a safe driver, there is always the off chance that you'll loan your car to a friend or family member and find out later that they crashed your car.
In these situations, insurance coverage can be rather complicated, so it's extremely important that you fully understand all the different séances of insurance coverage when it comes to how exactly your car is insured if someone drives your car and gets in an accident.
Some of the questions we'll be answering in this article are whether or not you can drive a car on your own insurance (i.e. does insurance follow the driver?), if someone can drive your car if he or she is not on your insurance policy, and when you can be liable for damages in these types of situations.
Can I Drive any Car on my Insurance?
This is a much more complicated question than most people would assume, and although many people assume that insurance follows the driver, the reality is that car insurance almost always follows the vehicle.
There are some exceptions to this rule of thumb when it comes to car insurance, and that is with liability insurance. When someone has liability insurance coverage within their own personal auto insurance policy, the policy follows the driver no matter what car is being operated, as long as the car being operated is eligible under the specific plan. Liability insurance typically is a minimum requirement for all drivers in every state, except New Hampshire, and in general, an ‘eligible' vehicle under liability insurance can include a friend or neighbor's car and rental cars.
When it comes to comprehensive and collision auto insurance coverage the tables are turned and the insured vehicle is what is followed under the policy. In the case that you drive your friend's car and then get in an accident and they have this kind of insurance policy, which most people obtain, then the vehicle owner's insurance policy will become the primary coverage for paying the damages and the driver's insurance would be the secondary insurance.
As you can imagine already, these types of situations become complicated very quickly, but it's important to understand that no matter if you're the one borrowing or lending out a vehicle most states will consider the car owner as having shared liability for whatever accident the borrower may cause.
Can Someone not on my Insurance Drive my car?
As much as people ask about whether insurance follows a driver or a vehicle, the more important question to be asking is whether or not other drivers are covered by your auto insurance. The truth of the matter is that this area of auto insurance is generally gray and can differ from policy to policy, which is exactly why it's crucial that you carefully read through your policy to make sure who is covered when behind the wheel of your car.
Some insurance carriers will not cover anyone who is not specifically named under a policy, and there are also some facets of these clauses that could come into play including where the ‘other driver' lives and how they are related to you. For the most part, you can consider anyone who lives with you and your family to be covered under your insurance, but some carriers will expect you to put these people under your potential driver's list.
Permissive use is also a very big part of answering this question, and for the most part, if you give someone permission to use your vehicle and they get into an accident then they are covered under your policy. When your insurance and the permissive user's insurance have different limits under what is covered, things can start to get pretty complicated. Typically, the car owner's liability limits must be exceeded for the permissive user's secondary coverage to be required, and that's only when the permissive user's liability limits are higher than the car owner's. As we previously mentioned, if someone not on your insurance drives your car paying for the damages is primarily on you, unless the accident was caused by someone else and wasn't the borrower's fault.
There are some exceptions to permissive use and owner liability coverage. Primarily this pertains to excluded drivers on your insurance plan and of course if you did not give permission for an excluded driver to borrow your vehicle. In this instance, you and your insurance coverage are not liable for paying for the damages of an accident.
There are many instances of non-permissive use, and although there are times it can be hard to prove that you didn't give permission to someone to drive your car, there are a few general scenarios to consider here, including the following:
- Theft: If your car gets stolen and causes an accident then you are not liable for any kind of damages/injuries that happens to any other vehicle/property/person, and the damages that happen to your vehicle are more than likely covered under your own coverage.
- Use by family member or friend: If one of your friends or family members takes your car without your permission then it is their insurance coverage that would become the primary coverage and your policy will be the secondary insurance.
- Use by an uninsured friend: If a friend of yours who does not own car insurance uses your car without your permission, then you should expect that your car insurance would cover any damages that incur.
When Could I be Held Liable?
If you let a driver who is excluded from your insurance policy drive your vehicle and they cause an accident, then you will more than likely be held liable for the damages.
Also, if you let someone who is intoxicated or in any way impaired drive your car, or if you allow an unlicensed driver to drive your car, then you can also be held liable for any damages that ensue.
Understanding Your Coverage
The biggest thing you can do to protect yourself is to be as informed as possible when it comes to your car insurance coverage. By talking to your insurance company about what is not covered or prohibited on your policy, you can be more capable of protecting yourself and your vehicle from getting in accidents or any kind of legal trouble.
It's also important to make the proper decision about who you will allow driving your vehicle under your insurance policy, because if you have any inclination that you want to exclude a person under your policy and they may, in fact, take your car without your permission then you could find yourself in a liable situation.
Lastly, it's important to always be careful who you lend your car out to and to only let people you trust drive it, because like we said at the beginning of this article it's impossible to predict a future accident, and accidents can happen at any moment.