If Someone Else Drives Your Car and Gets in an Accident, Are You Responsible?

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney

New York is one of 12 no-fault states when it comes to insurance coverage after a car accident. That means that your insurance company should pay your claim and the insurance company for the other party should pay his or her claim regardless of who was at fault.

However, that can change when you allow a friend or family member to use your car and that person gets into an accident. How the accident happened plays a big role in whether your auto insurance company will pay within the limits of your insurance policy or not.

Trust the Law Firm of Raphaelson & Levine with Your Car Accident Claim

The personal injury attorneys at the Midtown Manhattan law firm of Raphaelson & Levine have secured more than $500 million dollars in settlements on behalf of our clients since 1992. In the event of an accident that causes significant injuries, we encourage you to contact us as soon as you have notified your own insurance company that the accident took place.

Your car accident attorney will help you determine who bears the liability and whether you're entitled to file any type of lawsuit against the other party.

Insurance can get confusing when a family member or friend causes an accident in your vehicle. We answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this topic below.

If you have more questions of would like to speak with a personal injury lawyer about your legal options after a crash, we can help.

Call 212-268-3222 or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer at our law firm.

What Happens if Someone Else is Driving My Car and Gets in an Accident?

It's a common misconception that your auto insurance policy applies only to you as the driver. It actually applies to the vehicle and not individual drivers. That means if your friend or family member gets into an accident while driving your car, your own auto insurance policy should cover any damages. While that sounds straightforward enough, your insurance claim can get complicated when your friend or family member causes a serious car accident that injures or kills another person. One of several potential scenarios can apply when this situation occurs.

What Does the Term Permissive Use Mean?

Most insurance companies issue policies that allow for the permissive use of the vehicle insured. This term means that someone other than the listed driver may occasionally use the car. For legal purposes, occasional use means less than 12 times per year. If you expect another person to drive your car more often than that, it would be better to add him or her to your insurance policy. This will increase your premium but offer greater protection if that person gets into an accident.  If you allow someone considered a permissive driver to use your car, your own insurance company would be primary in case of an accident.

What Should You Expect if Another Driver Causes Property Damage with Your Vehicle?

If your friend or family member only caused property damage while driving your vehicle, your car insurance company should cover the damages. Remember, this is regardless of who is at fault due to New York's no-fault rules. However, you will need to pay your insurance deductible first. You will also need to pay for the repairs for your own vehicle if you don't carry collision coverage.

What if Someone Else Driving Your Vehicle Causes Bodily Harm to Another Motorist or Passenger?

An agent with your insurance company will first apply the bodily injury liability portion of your insurance policy to help cover the medical bills incurred by the other party. In the case of serious injuries, the insurance company representing your friend or family member will also contribute towards the injured party's medical bills. This is to ensure that he or she has adequate coverage for medical expenses associated with the car accident. Your own insurance company would always provide the primary coverage while your family member or friend's insurance company would provide secondary coverage.

What if the Person Driving Your Car Doesn't Have Insurance?

Before granting permissive use of your vehicle, it's important to make sure that the person you're borrowing it to has a valid driver's license and car insurance policy. If he or she doesn't carry car insurance and the medical bills of the injured party exceed your policy limits, you could be liable for paying the difference. This could easily cost you thousands of dollars if the person driving your car causes serious injuries to someone else. You could also find yourself in legal trouble for allowing someone without a valid driver’s license to use your vehicle.

How Does Liability Work When Someone Steals Your Car?

You would not be liable for paying damages as the vehicle owner if someone you don't know steals your car. If you have collision coverage, your own insurance company should pay to have your vehicle repaired. In the case of non-permissive use, which means someone you know used your car without your consent, that person's insurance policy should cover any damages that he or she causes.

However, your insurance agent or the insurance agent for the person who drove your car without permission may not believe you when you report non-permissive use. It is always assumed that the person driving your vehicle had permission to do so. This is when it pays to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. We will produce evidence that proves the person who crashed your car didn't have your permission to use it and therefore you should bear no responsibility for paying damages to another party.

What Does the Term Excluded Driver Mean?

Your insurance agent may write your policy to exclude certain drivers from using your car to keep your premium rates down. This typically includes teenage drivers, older adult children living at home, or anyone who has a poor driving record. If you allow an excluded driver to use your car and that person gets into an accident, your insurance policy won't cover the damage. You will be fully liable for paying to repair your own vehicle as well as damages to other vehicles and medical bills from any injuries.

What Should My Friend or Family Member Do After Getting into an Accident with My Vehicle?

The person driving your car should follow the same procedures you would follow if getting into an accident with your own car. The first thing to do is call the police to report the accident, no matter how minor. This creates a police report should either the driver of your vehicle or the driver of the other vehicle decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit later. Ask him or her to take pictures and document what happened as much as possible. When the two drivers exchange information, your friend or family member should contact you to get your insurance policy details and provide them to the other party.

How Does My Insurance Policy Work When Paying Damages Caused by Someone Else?

Your agent would first access the liability coverage portion of your insurance policy to pay for property damage or medical bills incurred by another driver due to the permissive use driver crashing your car. The liability insurance doesn't provide coverage to repair your own car or pay for your friend or family member's medical care if necessary. If you have optional collision coverage, it will cover the cost of repairing your vehicle after you pay the deductible.

Keep in mind that your insurance policy limits may not be enough to cover the other driver's expenses and you may exhaust your personal injury protection and liability coverage. In that case, the person injured in the accident caused by your friend or family member may decide to sue. No-fault laws in New York list specific categories of injuries that allow people to file a personal injury lawsuit outside of the no-fault system.

What is the Difference Between Personal Injury Protection and Bodily Injury Liability Insurance?

PIP covers medical bills not covered by the medical payments portion of your insurance policy for a permissive use driver and any passengers in your vehicle at the time of an accident. It also provides financial protection for you if you sustain injuries as a passenger in another vehicle or as a pedestrian struck by another motorist. The bodily injury liability insurance portion of your policy pays for medical treatment required by the driver or passengers of the other vehicle.

Contact Raphaelson & Levine Today for Help with This Complex Issue

With New York being a no-fault state and the numerous different scenarios that can apply when you allow someone else to use your car, it can get complicated in a hurry when that person gets into an accident. While we hope this page has answered the question "If someone else drives your car and gets into an accident, are you responsible?" We encourage you to take advantage of our free consultation to discuss your situation further with an experienced auto accident attorney at Raphaelson & Levine. We will evaluate your situation, present the best available options, and develop a legal plan moving forward. You can reserve your free consultation by contacting our law firm in Midtown Manhattan at 212-268-3222.

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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