What If Someone Else Gets in an Accident in My Car?
If someone else is driving your car when it is involved in an accident, not only do you need to wonder who was at fault but also whether the damage will be covered by insurance.
The good news is that generally, the insurance will follow the car rather than the driver— so if you would be covered, then so will the person behind your wheel. However, this is only a generalization; the specifics of why the driver was behind the wheel and the insurance involved can change the outcome.
If the person who was driving your car was not named as an insured on your auto policy, it could lead to a coverage battle with the insurance company. These situations can become complicated so discuss your case with a Pittsburgh personal injury attorney to gain an understanding of your rights.
Who is covered under your auto insurance policy?
Your insurance policy is a contract. These terms within it define who is insured, which usually includes anyone who lives with the person named as the policyholder.
Even if they do not live with you, friends, or family who you allow to use your vehicle are usually covered as “permissive users.”
If the permissive user is legally at fault for the accident, your policy will likely be the primary policy. If the driver had their own policy, that would then be secondary. If the permissive driver was not at fault, then the at-fault driver’s insurance would be responsible for the damages.
However, the fine print can change whose policy is the first to pay for an accident, so have it carefully reviewed by a trained eye.
What about someone driving my car without permission?
If someone is driving your car without your permission, it may be tricky to prove it. If you cannot show clearly that the driver did not have your permission, then your insurance company may consider the driver insured for the accident.
If your car was stolen, it is much easier to prove that the driver did not have your permission to use it. In that case, you would not be responsible for the damages, and your policy will likely cover your vehicle.
Liability for damages caused by another driver
Automobile owners need to be careful about who they let operate their vehicles. If a driver falls under an exclusion in your policy and causes an accident, you may be personally liable. In that case, the insurance company will not pay for the damages.
If you loan your vehicle to someone who has been drinking, or is otherwise impaired, or does not have a valid license, this could constitute “negligent entrustment.” If the driver injured someone else, you could be held liable.
The stakes are high if you are potentially facing a claim of negligent entrustment. Choose an experienced lawyer as soon as possible because you need to mount a strong defense early on.
What damages can be recovered?
The damages that are available in Pennsylvania depend on whether the insurance policyholder selected full tort coverage or instead opted for the less expensive limited tort coverage.
If you selected limited tort coverage and the permissive user was not at fault for the crash, they can only recover economic losses like reimbursement for medical bills and lost wages. If your vehicle is insured with full tort coverage, the driver can also recover for non-economic losses like pain and suffering.
Choosing limited tort coverage may seem like an easy way to save some money when it comes time to renew your policy. However, in the event of an accident, it can cost you far more than you save– by not providing for recovery of non-economic losses.
Be cautious with your vehicle
Though your auto policy will often protect you from personal financial responsibility, you are still ultimately responsible for how your vehicle is used. Only lend your vehicle to someone trusted and careful, and make sure they can be trusted to make good decisions.
If you or your vehicle have been involved in a car accident, contact us today. Our team has experience in diverse areas, allowing us to look at every angle of your case to spot potential areas of recovery. Schedule a free consultation with a Pittsburgh car accident lawyer at our firm today.