Letting a friend or family member borrow your car seems like no big deal. And usually, it’s not. But when there is an accident, there are more than a couple of things to think about. But if you didn’t know about it, the first question that pops into your head is obviously going to be about who is going to be held responsible for the crash. That’s an excellent question. If you’ve already been in that position, well, sorry. You probably know a thing or two about the situation.
If you haven’t, anyone who has been there will tell you that you need to think about dealing with the cops, possible personal injury claims and possible scenarios for insurance. We will look at all that in detail in this piece.
Dealing with the Cops
Police officers will be the first ones you will have to deal with. They will determine liability when someone wrecks a car. This depends heavily on the information you or whoever is present at the scene of the accident gives them. All of it is put into their report.
Sometimes, they may not even come to the scene. This is more likely when there is a significant amount of damage or serious injury. So, what happens next?
What Is the Standard Operating Procedure?
This, of course, starts with the police arriving at the scene. Now, their first priority should be to see if anyone is injured and needs medical attention. If yes, the officer on the scene is supposed to call it in. If no one needs medical help, they must focus on getting the vehicles off the road so that there is no traffic snag.
The police officer is also supposed to take pictures of the scene and damage caused to the vehicles. They should measure the skid marks and collect statements from all the witnesses. Based on this information, they will prepare a detailed report which will explain how it all happened. This report will have statements from the driver of the vehicles and the witnesses. It will have details of the physical evidence. But along with that, it will also have details of their experience in dealing with accidents and whether or not they have any special training. The report is also likely to have the officer’s opinion on the cause of the accident.
Police Report’s Effect on Compensation
Now, the police report is a very important document. If it says that the person driving your car is not at fault, you will have leverage in negotiations or if you choose to go to court. But if it goes the other way, that will act as the basis for all the liability conversations. It will also have a bearing on the damages you might have to pay if that’s the way things proceed.
Sometimes, you might feel like the report is not accurate or some details need to be altered. What to do then? Well, that depends on what the details are.
Now, you can assess the compensation with some accuracy if the police officer in question has special training. But remember that not all cops have that. So, when you look at the cop’s training and skills, this is something to look for. This is an important detail if the case goes to court since the cop’s opinions are a part of their report. Their skills and special knowledge on these subjects will be checked by the court to determine how accurate and relevant their opinions in the report are. This is also how the court decides whether or not some of this information is admissible in court.
Police Report’s Impact on Personal Injury Claims
But don’t worry just yet. While the police officer’s report is a crucial document and has a great deal of influence on what follows after, it is not the deciding factor, especially if you’re thinking about a personal injury case or even just about insurance. Those are the two logical next steps depending on the damage and injury.
If the report says that the driver of your car is not at fault, you have a huge advantage in terms of negotiating power. But if it does point fingers at you, the insurance company of the other vehicle’s driver has the advantage. They might use it to force you into a settlement for an amount that they see fit. This is also a problem if you take the matter to court because the judges tend to favor the police and their report.
In that case, you need to get your insurance company and an experienced personal injury attorney into the picture. Make sure your attorney or insurance company has the following information.
- Make sure the witness statements are accurate. That depends on making a case for or against how well they could see the accident.
- Make sure the report has an accurate record of your car’s speed.
- Find out where the cops got their information from.
Some of these claims can be challenged by the attorney if required. So this is crucial information in determining whose fault it was. Skid-mark analysis is a big part of it.
If the skid marks are 10 feet from the point of impact, it is safe to say that the driver did not break till that point. These marks, however, cannot determine the speed of the vehicle.
Watch out For…
We’ve all heard cops reading the Miranda Rights when there is an arrest on CSI, if not in real life. That is a concept that is very important while giving statements too. When the driver of your car tells them what happened, it is taken note of and added in the police report. This stuff can and most likely will be used against you in court or during the insurance claims if you’re not careful. This is not to say you must lie but just that you need to be careful with your words. The best thing to do, of course, for the driver of your car to not admit that it was their fault. Also, keep an eye on the documents you are signing till the ordeal comes to an end,
Some of these preliminary details about the accident itself cannot be altered at a later stage during court proceedings. That is why having an experienced lawyer on your side comes in handy.
Insurance Coverage When a Borrower Crashes Your Car
If there is no personal injury situation, you still need to think about insurance. The coverage is typically attached to the vehicle and its driver. So, as a car owner, you are not liable for the accidents that someone else who has borrowed your vehicle causes.
However, don’t rest easy just yet because your insurance provides primary coverage for the person driving your car if they are permissive to drive. What is that?
It means that you are not responsible for the accident if your vehicle was stolen or used without your permission. The insurance kicks in only if you have authorized the person to drive your vehicle. This is primary insurance.
When we say secondary insurance, we are talking about the driver’s liability insurance. If you as the car owner have $25,000 in injury liability but the injuries cost $30,000 their liability insurance will cover the extra five grand.
In fact, if you were injured in an accident caused by someone else with a car that they borrowed, you should talk to a lawyer. Things regarding damages and compensation get a bit more complicated in that situation.
Some Possible Scenarios
Whether the car was borrowed by your buddy or a brother, if they meet with an accident, you must first think of the severity of the accident. That’s not just for humane reasons but also in anticipation of the amount of trouble you’re in.
Here are a few possibilities and what you can expect in terms of your insurance in such cases.
- If your buddy causes the accident but no one is injured, the insurance company will pay for the damage but you will be responsible for the deductible. The idea behind these policies is that the person driving the car is doing so with your consent. But if your policy does not have collision coverage, you will have to pay for the damages from your pocket. If your buddy has coverage, the insurance company will try to make that as a substitute claim or get their company to pay for the damages.
- If your friend gets into an accident and someone else is injured, the other person’s personal injury protection or PIP insurance will kick in. The same will happen to your friend if they are injured. If the injury is serious, your liability coverage will pay for any extra medical bills. If your friend is insured, your company might try to get some money from their insurance company.
- If your friend with no insurance crashes your car and ends up with injuries or causes them, you are in a bad place. Your insurance will kick in but if they are exhausted, you might be personally liable for the damages. I mean, in terms of paying the bills. So, the lesson here is to try and avoid lending cars to people who have no insurance.
- Then there is the case of them borrowing it without your permission. While companies assume that you gave permission, you can convince them otherwise when it is true and your friend’s insurance will have to pay for damages and such.
- If someone steals your car and wrecks it, your collision coverage might pay for the damages to your car. If someone is injured, that is not something for you to worry about in terms of payments.
- If you have been in an accident and the owner of the car is not responsible, you must consult a lawyer about compensation for your injuries.
Now, let’s look at the different situations you’re in. You can be deemed a negligible car owner and give your vehicle to someone who then crashes it and injures someone else. In this case, you will be personally liable.
An example of this is to give your car to someone who is drunk and ends up in an accident that not only damages your vehicle but also causes injuries to someone else. That person can choose to hold you and the drunk driver responsible. And well, can you really blame them?
If the person who has your car does not have your permission, your insurance might not cover them or the people injured in the accident. The driver’s insurance will act as the primary coverage in these cases. But if they do have your permission, it’s your insurance because you let them drive your car. Your collision coverage will pay for the damages and your liability coverage will pay for the damage to the other party.
When It’s Someone on Your Policy
Sometimes, the person who is driving your car is a family member or someone already on your policy. In that case, they get the same coverage as you if you were driving the car. The only exception to this is you have specifically excluded them from the policy.
When It Was an Excluded Driver
If they are specifically excluded from the coverage and wreck your car, your company may not cover the damage. When we say excluded driver, we mean someone who is inexperienced or generally considered high risk by you and has chosen to leave out of the auto insurance policy. You might choose to do that so that the insurance rates don’t surge.
The insurance company does not pay for the damages even if you have given them permission to drive the car.
The other exceptions to these rules are fairly obvious. Drunk driving is a given here. It is also applicable if the person does not have a valid driver’s license.
The question of whether you are liable or not is important in terms of insurance and injury. There are many scenarios and we have listed some broadly in this piece. It is up to you to take the necessary precautions.