When a car accident happens, the injured victims have the right to hold a careless driver responsible for their medical bills, lost income, physical pain, emotional suffering, scars, and any other damages. Many times, others may be also be liable for their driver’s negligence.
If the driver of the vehicle did not own the car, then the owners of the vehicle can usually be held accountable for all injuries too. That’s because your insurance plan is for the car, not the driver. Even if your friend’s car insurance eventually covers the bills, your premiums can go up if the person who borrowed your car gets into an accident.
Owner liability for a driving accident
The owners can be liable if a driver of their car causes death or injury based on the following grounds:
- Negligent entrustment. Owners can be liable for letting someone they knew shouldn’t drive their car have the keys to their vehicle. For example, parents can be liable if they let a child drive when they knew the child didn’t have a driver’s license. Owners can be held accountable if they let someone with a suspended license operate their car. Children who own a car can even be held liable if they let a parent drive their car when they know the parent has dementia or is incapable of driving safely.
- Failing to maintain a car. If owners know their vehicle needs repairs, they can be held responsible if the driver has an accident as a result of that broken or defective part.
- Non-permissive use. Owners can be liable even if someone borrow the car without asking. That is because the insurance company will assume permission is granted unless you can prove otherwise. If a stranger steals your car, you probably won’t be liable – but if your kid takes the car, you could be.
- Household use. Owners can be accountable for giving the keys to the car to anyone who lives in their home such as a child or relative.
This last point, about household use, is very important. If you do not have other drivers listed as potential drivers, then you could be in real trouble if a spouse, a child, or a roommate gets into a wreck in your vehicle. Furthermore, Oklahoma allows insurance carriers to decrease your coverage AND the coverage for anyone not listed on your policy: “That means even if you have purchased a good amount of liability insurance, coverage could be reduced to state auto insurance minimums if your friend crashes. To avoid this, consider listing on your policy any non-household members who occasionally borrow your car.”
The best way to avoid the hassles of being held liable for an accident you didn’t cause is to simply say “no” when someone asks to borrow your car. If you know that you’ll e lending out your vehicle, encourage your friends and loved ones to purchase something called non-owners auto insurance. This type of policy only covers liability, and it only covers one person, but it could help offset the costs associated with a collision.
Lending someone your car is a nice thing to do, and we don’t want to discourage kindness. However, we do want you to know about the potential risks involved with lending someone your car, so you can make an informed decision about whether you should. If you have been hurt in a car accident, or if you think your insurance company isn’t treating you right, Cunningham & Mears can help. Call our Oklahoma City car accident lawyers at 405-232-1212 or fill out our contact form.
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Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More