What Happens If Someone Else Is Driving My Car And Gets In An Accident

The consequences of another person driving your vehicle and getting into an accident can be significant. In California, auto insurance typically follows the vehicle rather than the driver. An experienced car accident attorney can help you take the right steps for the best possible outcome for your situation.

Photo of Car Accident Scene

When Would a Car Owner Face Liability for Another Driver’s Accident in California?

If the car owner gives permission (either explicit or implied) for someone else to drive their vehicle, the owner may be held liable for the actions of the driver. The following are scenarios where you may be held liable:

Negligent Entrustment

If you knowingly allow someone incompetent, inexperienced, or reckless to drive your vehicle, you may be held liable under the legal concept of negligent entrustment. This only applies if you had reason to believe the driver posed a risk.

Agency or Employment Relationship

If the driver is acting on your behalf, such as in an employer-employee relationship, you may be held vicariously liable for the driver’s actions while performing duties related to your business.

Failure to Maintain the Vehicle

Car owners in California may be held liable if they fail to properly maintain their vehicles, leading to mechanical failures contributing to accidents.

Allowing an Unfit Driver

Allowing someone without a valid driver’s license or with a suspended/revoked license to drive the vehicle can result in the owner’s liability, especially if they were aware of the driver’s lack of credentials.

Failure to Secure the Vehicle

If you fail to secure your vehicle, such as leaving it unlocked with the keys inside, and an unauthorized person takes it and crashes it, you may be held liable for negligence.

The Fault Rule for Auto Accidents in California

California operates under an “at-fault” system when it comes to auto accidents. This means that the party that caused the accident is typically responsible for covering the resulting damages, including property damage, medical expenses, and other losses.

The vehicle owner can be held liable for damages caused by someone else driving their car if that driver is at fault. This is because the owner is considered responsible for allowing someone else to operate their car.

The at-fault driver’s insurance is typically the primary source of coverage for the damages. If the person driving your car is at fault, their insurance policy will generally be the first to cover the costs associated with the accident. However, your insurance may come into play, especially if the at-fault driver’s limits are insufficient to cover the damages. This is where the concept of permissive use comes into effect.

Applicability of Permissive Use Following a Car Accident

The concept of “permissive use” is vital in determining whether your insurance will cover an accident. If you gave permission for someone to drive your car, and they meet the criteria outlined in your policy, your insurance should cover the damages.

It is important to note that lending your car to someone without permission may complicate matters. Some policies might have restrictions on who qualifies as a permissive user, such as family members or individuals explicitly named in the policy.

If someone drives the vehicle without the owner’s permission, it may be considered non-permissive use. In such cases, your insurance coverage may not apply, and the at-fault driver’s insurance becomes the primary source of coverage. You should consult a seasoned California car accident lawyer to learn more about your legal options.

Liability Limits When Someone Else Crashes Your Car in California

California Vehicle Code Section 17151 pertains to the liability of a vehicle owner for the negligent acts of permissive users (people with permission to use the vehicle).

If someone is driving your car with your permission and is at fault in an accident, your liability as the owner is generally limited to the extent of your insurance coverage. Once the coverage limits are reached, your financial responsibility may be considered “limited” to the maximum coverage amount under Section 17151(a).

Your personal assets are generally protected, and you are not personally responsible for the at-fault driver’s actions beyond the coverage provided by your insurance policy. However, allowing high-risk drivers to use the vehicle may lead to increased premiums. While limited liability generally applies, there can be exceptions, especially if the owner’s actions contributed to the accident.

This is true even if there are specific circumstances that might alter the liability dynamics as listed under California Vehicle Code Section 17151(b). A dedicated personal injury law firm can assess the circumstances surrounding the accident and advise you on the best course of action to protect your rights.

Importance of Having a Knowledgeable Car Accident Attorney on Your Side

If someone else crashed your car, an attorney can be beneficial in various ways to protect your rights:

  • Insurance Claims: Insurance companies may try to minimize payouts. Your law firm can help you successfully handle the insurance claims process. They can communicate with insurance companies on your behalf, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive fair compensation for damages to your vehicle.
  • Understanding Insurance Coverage: If the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured, your lawyer can help you understand your insurance coverage and explore available options for compensation.
  • Personal Injury Claims: If you or passengers in your vehicle suffered injuries, a competent car accident law firm can assist with personal injury claims. They can help you recover compensation for car damage and injuries.
  • Protecting Your Rights: Your car accident lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the claims process. They can advise you on what information to provide to insurance companies and what actions to take to preserve your legal position.

Get Legal Representation from Experienced Car Accident Attorneys in California

At The Roberts | Jeandron Law Firm, we understand the stress and complications that arise when someone else crashes your car. Our experienced California auto accident lawyers will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the crash, gathering evidence, assessing liability, and determining the most effective legal strategy for your case. To schedule your free consultation, call (949) 208-9854 or reach us online today.

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