If you lend your car to someone and they get into an accident, different factors, like your relationship to the driver, will indicate if your insurance will cover the damages. As such, whether it was your child who lives with you or someone who stole your car will determine how the claims process will pan out.
Still, in any scenario, one of our personal injury attorneys can help you determine liability in a car accident case.
The Circumstances of the Accident Will Dictate who Pays for Damages
The following factors will determine if you are liable:
You Gave Your Family Member or Friend Permission to Borrow Your Vehicle
In most instances, they will be covered by your insurance policy if the use of the vehicle was truly permissive. If you did not give permission, such as in the case of auto theft, it’s possible that you might not be liable for damages.
Your Family Member or Friend Who Is Part of Your Household
You will want to check your insurance policy, but generally, anyone who lives in your house will be covered when they are driving your car unless they are expressly excluded from your policy. If they are explicitly excluded from your policy, your insurance likely will not cover the accident, and you might have to pay for damages out of your own pocket.
You Lend Your Car to an Impaired or Unlicensed Driver
You may be sued for damages if you let someone without driving privileges or an intoxicated person drive your vehicle and they cause an accident.
The Damages Caused Exceed Insurance Limits
You may have to pay for damages out of your own pocket if they exceed your insurance policy limits or if the driver does not have insurance to cover the excess. In this case, you could rely on your uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage.
This type of insurance is an optional plan you could have selected when you first retained car insurance. It can cover the medical bills up to policy limits, as well as pain and suffering.
Understand Your Car Insurance Coverage
It is important to note that New York is a no-fault insurance state, so your insurance covers the insured driver’s medical expenses, lost wages, and other incidental expenses no matter who is at fault for the accident.
In most cases, your insurance policy will follow your car, not the driver, so if your friend borrows your car and gets into an accident, your insurance will be the primary coverage that will apply.
However, what actually is covered will depend on the facts and circumstances of the accident. Make sure you understand your insurance policy, including what is covered and the policy limits. While the best way to avoid any liability is to not lend your car to anyone, if you must, use discretion and caution when deciding who can drive your vehicle.
If the Other Driver was at Fault for the Car Accident
In the event the losses go over the policy limits, you can hold the other driver responsible if they are deemed negligent. To establish negligence, we would have to prove these four elements:
- A duty of care: The other driver was to act in accordance with the traffic laws to keep other road users safe.
- Violation or breach of duty: The other driver didn’t live up to the duty of care they owed you. They could have driven while drunk, fatigued, or distracted.
- Causation: The other driver’s negligence caused an accident.
- Damages: You and the person who was driving your car face economic and non-economic damages.
The driver of your vehicle can give their account as to what happened, but that is not sufficient enough to show the insurance company that they are entitled to compensation. In that case, you might want to gather evidence like the crash or medical reports, photographs of the injuries the driver of your vehicle sustained and the accident scene, video surveillance, and other people’s testimonies.
Filing a Lawsuit After a Car Accident in New York
Insurance companies enforce their own deadlines with filing claims, but the State of New York has its own rules regarding lawsuits.
According to CVP § 214, you generally have a three-year window to file suit against the liable party. Don’t wait to start your case, as you might run out of options for compensation if you try to file after the three years have run out.
Connect with the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP now for a Free Consultation
If someone else was driving your car and got in an accident in New York, consider consulting a car accident attorney on our team right away, as you may be liable for damages that you personally did not cause.
Call the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP at (516) 358-6900 to learn more about what we can do for you. For your convenience, we are available 24/7. Let our injury lawyers help you put your life back together.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900