Auto insurance companies in Connecticut cover vehicles rather than the people who drive them. Because of that, your policy would likely cover any damage if your car is involved in an accident with someone other than you behind the wheel. However, this is just a general rule, and it does not apply in every situation.
When Another Driver Wrecks Your Car
Your insurance company could refuse to pay the claim if the person who was driving your car took it without permission or was using it for a purpose that your policy does not allow. In these situations, the person who was driving the car would be responsible and file a claim with their insurance company.
Also importantly, if they were driving without insurance, they could be sued. It is very unlikely that somebody would sue you over an accident involving a vehicle you own if you were not driving at the time, but it could happen if you loaned your car to a person who was obviously intoxicated – or you knew they would be using it to engage in dangerous behavior like street racing.
Factors Used to Determine Coverage
Many people lend their cars to friends or family members and then wonder “what happens if someone else is driving my car and gets in an accident?” The answer to this question will depend on a number of factors.
These are the factors that an insurance company will take into consideration before agreeing to pay a car accident claim:
Who was at fault?
Connecticut is an at fault state. This means that the person who caused an accident is held responsible, and their insurance company will pay the claim. Insurance companies usually use police reports to determine who was at fault, but they may also conduct their own investigation. This means that if you lend your car to someone who gets into an accident that was not their fault, the other driver’s insurance coverage should pay to repair your vehicle. If the other driver was not insured, you may have to take legal action to recover the cost of repairs.
Was permission given?
If the person who was driving your car was at fault, your insurance company will want to know if they had permission to drive the vehicle. This is known as permissive and non-permissive use. If the person did not have permission, your insurance company could refuse to pay. Determining whether or not permission was given is fairly straightforward when a car is stolen, but it becomes thornier when a friend or family member is involved.
This is particularly true when the person has borrowed the car before. When a person who borrowed a vehicle without permission causes an accident, they are held responsible and either they or their insurance company will be expected to pay for any damage. If they do not have auto coverage, you will have to either pay for your vehicle repairs or file a claim with your insurance company.
What was the vehicle used for?
If you have a personal policy, your insurance company may refuse to pay a claim if your car was involved in a car accident while it was being used for business purposes. Personal policies allow vehicles to be driven to and from work, but they exclude other forms of business uses, such as transporting clients, making deliveries or driving to meetings.
This is why you should always ask a person you lend your car to what they plan to do while driving it. Another good idea is to check your insurance policy for any use restrictions.
When Damages Exceed Insurance Coverage
If a person you lend your car to is involved in an accident that causes significant property damage or serious injuries, it is possible that your insurance coverage limits will not be sufficient to cover all of the costs involved.
When this happens, the person who was driving your car will make a claim on their insurance policy to cover the difference. If they do not have insurance, the road users who suffered injury, loss or damage could file lawsuits against them. If your policy limits are high enough to cover an accident claim, your insurance company may still try to recoup some of the money from your friend or relative’s insurance company.
Situations of Liability and Lawsuits
When facts suggest that you acted negligently, people injured by your vehicle could sue you, even if you were not behind the wheel at the time they got hurt. This type of lawsuit is usually filed when insurance limits are exceeded and by people who have been seriously injured. In such cases, any damages awarded could be high.
Situations where you could face a lawsuit based on the doctrine of vicarious liability include:
- Accidents caused by children: While Connecticut’s parental responsibility law does not hold parents responsible for accident damages, a lawsuit could still be filed against a parent who acted negligently when they allowed a minor to drive their vehicle. For instance, parents could be accused of negligence if a child who uses a cellphone incessantly causes an accident while sending a text message – or in a case where a child with very little driving experience is allowed to drive a high-performance vehicle.
- Accidents caused by drunk drivers: If you lend your car to a person who is clearly intoxicated or you know will be consuming alcohol or taking drugs and then driving, the people injured in a car accident they cause could accuse you of negligence.
- Foreseeable accidents: Drivers sometimes behave extremely reckless, and serious injuries are a foreseeable consequence when they do. If you lend your car to somebody who you know will be engaging in behavior that would likely lead to others getting hurt, such as playing chicken or street racing on busy public roads, you could be sued if an accident occurs.
- Accidents caused by shoddy repairs or inadequate maintenance: You are expected to make sure that your car is safe. If you lend somebody a car with threadbare tires, defective brakes or some other serious safety issue, you could be held at least partly responsible for the problem that causes them to crash.
While legal consequences will probably not be a worry for you if you lend your car to somebody who then causes an accident, there are some costs that you will likely have to cover. If your vehicle is damaged and must be repaired, you will be expected to cover your policy deductible. The claim could also cause your car insurance premiums to rise. If you decide not to file a claim for your vehicle repairs, you will have to pay for them out-of-pocket or ask your friend or relative to take care of the bill.
Get Sound Legal Advisement
When someone else besides you gets behind the wheel of your car and wrecks, you want a professional attorney on your side. The Moynahan Law Firm in Waterbury, CT has helped countless people with their car accident injury cases. Furthermore, Tim Moynahan, of the Moynahan Law Firm, will always fight for your rights.