The aftermath of any car accident can be confusing, particularly if you let somebody else drive your vehicle and they were involved in an accident. When this occurs, it is important to understand how insurance companies will handle these situations. Here, we will look at the liability of a vehicle owner when someone other than the policyholder is using the vehicle.
Can Other People Drive Your Car?
It is not uncommon for drivers to let other people use their vehicles. This can include members of the policyholder’s household. These members are typically covered under the insurer’s insurance policy. There are also “permissible users” that may drive a policyholder’s vehicle. If a vehicle owner lets someone borrow their vehicle to run an errand, that person is a permissible user.
However, can the car owner be held liable for an accident caused by someone else driving their vehicle?
If You Let Someone Else Drive Your Car
The short answer is, yes, you can be held liable if you lend your car to someone and they cause a car accident. Your insurance will be on the line for expenses caused by the accident. However, there are limits to this liability under California law. For example, if a driver is acting for themselves when the accident occurs, then the owner of the vehicle has liability for $15,000 for injury or death to one person or $30,000 for injuries that occur to more than one person. Additionally, the owner is liable for up to $5,000 in property damage liability.
You will notice that these limits are in line with the minimum insurance requirement for all drivers in the state of California.
Loaning a Vehicle to an Unlicensed Driver
If you loan your vehicle to an unlicensed driver, you will be held liable for any damages they cause in an accident with your vehicle. In this case, the $15,000 and $30,000 limitations mentioned above will not apply. You will be held personally liable for all injury and property damages caused by the accident. Before loaning your vehicle to anyone, make sure they have a valid license.
These liability limitations also will not apply if you loan a vehicle that you know to be defective to another person and then a car accident occurs due to the defect. Unsafe vehicles should not be on the roadway.
If an Employee is Driving the Car
Employers are responsible for negligent driving actions committed by an employee if the employee is acting within the scope of their work duties. This is known as the theory of “vicarious liability.” When two parties have a certain type of relationship with one another, the law can hold one party liable for the negligent actions of the other.
If you are an employer and your employee runs a stop sign in the company car and strikes another vehicle during work hours, you will be held responsible for the damages caused by the crash.
Do you Need a Car Accident Attorney?
If someone else has caused an accident while driving your vehicle, you may need to seek assistance from a personal injury attorney. These cases can become complex, and you want to be sure you are treated fairly by your insurer. Insurance carriers will do what they can to limit any settlement they pay out, so let your Long Beach car accident attorney thoroughly investigate the incident.