You loaned your car to someone and they crashed it. Now what?
The Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Cousin Benny explain who is liable if someone else crashes your car, whose insurance may apply, the circumstances under which your insurance might refuse to pay, and what steps you should take after someone else wrecks your car.
If someone else was driving your car and got into an accident, you need to know if you are responsible for the costs of injuries and property damage. Beyond paying your deductible, you may be personally liable if damages exceed your coverage. Call the car accident lawyers at Cousin Benny today to discuss your case, free of charge.
Who Is Liable if Someone Else Crashes My Car?
Generally, in Pennsylvania, you are, because it is the vehicle that is insured, not you. The driver’s insurance may act as secondary insurance for any injuries or property damage, but it is the owner’s insurance that is primary. Your insurance will pay when:
You Have “Full Tort” or “Limited Tort” Insurance Coverage
Pennsylvania is a “choice” auto insurance state. This means drivers have a choice to purchase either “full tort” coverage or “limited tort” coverage.
Full tort coverage covers the driver and qualifying family members if you are injured or suffer other losses such as lost wages and pain and suffering, regardless of fault, with no limit and no qualification of the types of injury suffered.
Limited tort coverage limits your right to get compensated for medical expenses and other economic losses. It also does not allow recovery for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering unless you suffer a “serious” injury, which is defined under PA law. Understandably, limited tort coverage is much less expensive than full tort coverage.
Regardless of the type of insurance any driver in an accident has, Pennsylvania allows unlimited claims for damage to a vehicle against the at-fault driver(s).
The Person Driving Your Car was Less than 51% at Fault for the Accident
Liability for causing or contributing to a car accident is hotly contested in PA, and for good reason. How much a party gets or must pay in compensation for damages caused by a car accident is directly affected by the percentage each driver was at fault for causing the accident.
The At-Fault Driver in PA
If the person driving your car suffered an injury or there was damage to your vehicle, you each may have a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance policy as long as the person driving your vehicle was not more than 50% at fault for causing the accident.
When You May Be Personally Responsible for Damages
All owner-operators and drivers in Pennsylvania must carry minimum amounts of insurance:
- $5,000 in what is called “medical benefits coverage”, which pays the medical bills of anyone who is covered under the terms of your policy after an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
- $15,000 for “bodily injury liability”, per injured person when you are at fault for causing the accident.
- $30,000 “total bodily injury liability” per accident when you are at fault for causing an accident, and
- $5,000 property damage protection per incident of damage when you are at fault.
In the alternative, drivers and owner-operators in Pennsylvania may purchase all-purpose car insurance policies with a minimum of $35,000 in total coverage.
If you do not carry car insurance, you may be personally responsible for damages caused by your authorized driver’s accident.
If the authorized driver of your vehicle is responsible for causing a car accident and losses exceed the limits of your car insurance policy, you may be personally responsible for making up the difference out of your own assets if the driver’s insurance does not cover it or the driver does not have car insurance.
Whose Insurance Applies, Mine or Theirs?
Usually yours, however, there are complications. It depends upon the type of insurance policy each driver has, the type of insurance you have, whether the driver had permission to drive your car and was or was not covered under your policy, whether the driver was doing anything illegal at the time of the accident, and the percentage of fault of each driver for causing the accident.
When Might My Insurance Refuse to Pay?
There are a few situations where your insurance may refuse to pay for damages if someone else was driving your car:
- That person took your car without your permission, or you can’t show you gave permission.
- That person was excluded from coverage by your insurance policy intentionally because they have a negative motor vehicle report.
- That person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, doesn’t have a valid license, or was engaged in other illegal conduct when the accident happened.
What Steps Should I Take After Someone Else Wrecks My Car?
1. Make a Police Report
Call the police and report the accident if the driver or someone else has not done so already. Get a copy of the police report, which should contain information such as the identity of other drivers involved, their drivers license numbers, their insurance policy information, witness contact information, location of the accident, weather and road conditions, and whether any citations were issued.
This is all valuable information to have if you are forced to litigate the matter in the future.
2. Understand Your Insurance Policy
Review the terms of your insurance policy. Car insurance coverage in Pennsylvania can get pretty complex, especially if someone else was driving your car. Take a look at who the plan covers and what happens in the event of an accident. You also want to find out what your deductible is.
3. Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
Because the type of insurance coverage and liability for the accident factor significantly into how much compensation injured parties get and whose insurance pays what, you should consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to discuss your responsibilities and your options.
How Much Will a Car Accident Lawyer Cost?
A car accident lawyer should work on contingency, however, if you were not injured or involved in the accident, an hourly rate or flat fee may apply. Your lawyer will let you know up front, before you undertake any obligation and before any legal work is done, what the fee structure is.
Speak with the Car Accident Lawyers at Cousin Benny Today, Free!
If you live in the Philadelphia area and you loaned your car to someone who then got into an accident, you may be more on the hook for monetary damages than you realize. Call our office to discuss your case – free of charge!