How many times have you loaned your automobile to a friend or family member? Even if you trust the person you are lending your car to, incidents can occur that can put you at risk for legal liability. Many automobile accidents involve parties other than the owners of the vehicle and, in the event of an auto accident, there are situations where you might be held responsible for another person’s behavior. Continue reading for a legal primer on such potential situations in and an outline of the legal implications of auto accidents that occur when someone other than you is driving the car.
Under many circumstances, if you loan your car to your relative and your relative is driving your vehicle, you will be held responsible for any damages he or she causes due to negligence (such as texting and driving, drinking and driving, or other forms of distracted driving). This is a legal concept called “vicarious liability”.
Under California law, the owner of a vehicle can be held responsible for the actions of those driving the vehicle, as well as be responsible for the damages caused by the vehicle and (such as injuries to passengers). Therefore, a lawsuit can be filed against you as the owner of a vehicle involved in an accident, even if it was your relative who was driving the vehicle. These all-too-common situations illustrate the importance of registering prospective drivers on your insurance policy, and being registered yourself if you borrow cars frequently. For example, if you are not registered under a relative’s insurance policy, the insurance company may not cover you in the event that you are in an accident while driving your relative’s vehicle. For more information on the various aspects of auto insurance coverage, click here.
A similar situation can occur when a friend borrows your car with your permission. By loaning out the car, you are taking on vicarious liability for your friend’s actions while he or she is driving the car, including damage to property and bodily injury. The inverse situation is also true, however – if you borrow a friend’s car with permission, your friend will be held vicariously liable for your actions. These factors are often an important key in determining whose insurance will pay for damages caused in an accident, as well as who will ultimately bear legal responsibility should the matter proceed to court.
For more information on whether your auto insurance will cover instances of vicarious liability, contact your insurance company and discuss these issues before any accidents are likely to occur. If an accident has already occurred and you believe it may involve the complex field of vicarious liability, it is a good idea to contact an experienced attorney who specializes in auto accidents to inform you of your rights and remedies.
For more information on whether your auto insurance policy will cover the auto accident you or a friend were involved in, contact auto accident attorney Barry P. Goldberg today.