Accident Liability When the Driver is Not the Owner
If you or someone else is involved in an accident but they are not the owner of the car they are driving, things can get a little complicated. Or, they can seem that way. When driving a loaned car or loaning a car to someone else, it is important to understand the liability of both parties in the case of a car crash. These situations both differ from a third possibility which is that someone stole your car or took it without asking and then got into an accident.
Who is Liable for Damage? The Owner or the Driver?
In most cases, the owner of the car involved in the accident is the one who is liable for any damages from a collision. If you loan your vehicle to a friend or family member and they wreck it, be prepared to pay. Of course, depending on how well you know the driver and what your relationship is, they may be willing to pay you back for costs associated with the accident. If you are driving a friend’s car with their permission, keep this knowledge in mind and be very cautious on the road.
What Happens if Someone Steals Your Car?
If someone steals your car and then crashes it, or if they take it without asking and then crash it, you are typically not liable for the damage. In this case, the driver would be liable for all damages. If the driver is not insured at the time of the crash, then your insurance may have to pay for the damage.
If you suspect that someone has stolen your car, whether it was someone you know or not, you should report the stolen auto to the authorities as soon as possible.
However, it’s possible to have someone take your car without asking and it not be seen as stealing. For instance, if a teenager takes their parents’ car without asking or after asking and receiving a negative response, that is called “non-permissive use” and is not the same as auto theft. In these instances, the owner of the vehicle is typically liable.