Picture this: Your best friend asks to borrow your car for a quick errand. You happily oblige, but you get a call minutes later that he or she has been in an accident. After ensuring your friend is safe, panic could set in as you wonder what the repercussions will be.
You may wonder:
- “Who is responsible for the damages?”
- “Will my insurance cover repair costs?”
- “Will I be held liable for any injuries and medical bills?”
- “What happens if someone else is driving my car and gets in an accident?”
Minton Law has years of experience helping clients in Little Rock, Pulaski County, and throughout the State of Arkansas get the compensation they deserve after a car accident. Schedule a free consultation at our law firm to discuss your case with one of our experienced lawyers.
What Can You Do If Someone Else Crashes Your Car in Arkansas?
Whether your friend borrows your car for a quick trip or your coworker uses it for an important event, you should understand the potential consequences of someone else getting into an accident while driving your vehicle.
What are your legal options if a friend causes a collision in your vehicle? How can our Arkansas car accident attorneys help you protect your legal rights? Consider the following legal concepts of permissive use and vicarious liability.
What is “permissive use” in an Arkansas car accident?
In Arkansas, some auto insurance policies permit additional drivers other than a vehicle’s registered owner to drive the insured vehicle.
This is known as “permissive use” and, in most circumstances, allows dependents and relatives to drive with the car owner’s permission. Other individuals may also be legally permitted to drive your vehicle with your permission, such as:
You could be held financially responsible for any damages or injuries that occur when your car is knowingly lent to someone who should not be the person driving your car. For example:
- A known reckless driver
- An individual who is clearly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- An uninsured or unlicensed driver
- A person who is otherwise legally restricted from driving
What is considered to be non-permissive use?
You should always check that anyone who borrows your car is properly insured before permitting that person to use it. You should also consult with your insurance carrier to see whether there are any restrictions on who can drive your car with coverage.
But what if someone else drives your car without your permission? When your car is used without your permission, this is considered “non-permissive use.”
The following are a few different scenarios in which non-permissive use of a car can occur:
- Your car was stolen: The thief driving it caused a multi-car accident
- You lend your car to a friend to travel to work: However, your friend lent it to a neighbor to run errands
- Your teenage relative took your truck to school without asking: He or she assumed it would be okay with you despite not being your dependent or living in your household
- Your ex-spouse is allowed to use your car to pick up your children: However, he or she lets a coworker use it instead
What is vicarious liability?
Vicarious liability is a legal concept holding car owners responsible for the actions of others who drive their vehicles with permission.
For example, parents have the duty to ensure their child is licensed, a safe and responsible driver, and covered by an insurance policy. Additionally, parents are legally responsible for teaching their children and helping them understand the consequences of their actions.
So even if the parents are not in the car, if their teenager causes an accident in the vehicle, they could be held liable for any damage caused by their child’s unsafe driving.
This can apply to anyone you allow to use your car, such as:
Exceptions to vicarious liability
The principle of vicarious liability may apply even if the driver borrowing your vehicle has his or her own insurance coverage. The car owner’s insurance policy will be the primary source of liability coverage for any damages or injuries caused while using the owner’s vehicle with permission.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. It depends on the circumstances of the collision and who is determined to be at fault for the car accident.
- The driver was driving the car without the owner’s permission
- The driver was using the car for an illegal purpose
- The other driver was speeding, ran a red light, or otherwise drove recklessly
- The owner did not know or have reason to know that the driver was unlicensed or otherwise unfit to drive
Will My Insurance Cover Damages If Permission Was Not Given to Use My Vehicle?
Although you may not be responsible for injuries or property damage caused by someone using your car without permission, you might be required to cover the costs of your vehicle repairs – depending on your car insurance coverage.
It’s possible that your insurance policy may not cover accident costs, your repairs, or any damages or injuries that resulted from the accident caused by that driver.
The burden of proof is on the car owner to show that permission was not given to use the vehicle. He or she will have to provide evidence proving you did not allow the individual to use your car.
Evidence showing you did not allow your vehicle to be used could include:
- Video footage
- Text messages
- Mail correspondence
- Witness testimony
What Happens If My Spouse Wrecks My Car?
Under Arkansas law, if the driver had the vehicle owner’s permission, express or implied, the owner could be responsible for a collision. So if your spouse crashed your car while driving it with or without your permission, you may be held vicariously liable.
Contact your insurance company immediately to report the accident and discuss your options for coverage. If it is determined that you gave your spouse implicit or implied permission to use your car, you could be found at fault.
Unfortunately, your insurance company could increase your rates or even cancel your policy if they find out that your spouse has a history of serious car accidents or moving violations.
What If My Child or Grandchild Causes an Accident in My Car?
If your child, grandchild, or another relative crashed your car and is over the age of 18 with an auto insurance policy, his or her own policy would likely cover any damages.
However, if the driver is under 18 and does not have insurance:
- Your insurance policy could be the primary coverage
- You may have to pay out of pocket for uncovered damages
- The child’s parents may be held financially responsible
You might consider adding your young relatives to your family member or own insurance policy as additional drivers if you intend on letting them drive your car often. This will ensure that all drivers are covered in case of an accident.
What Can I Do If My Friend Lied About Being Legally Able to Drive?
If your friend crashes your car after lying about having insurance or a license, you may end up shouldering liability.
When you can prove that your friend was not authorized to drive your vehicle, he or she may be subject to:
- License suspension or revocation
- Other punitive actions
- Financial liability
If your friend lacks coverage, your own insurance company also may have to cover the damages. The other party may pursue legal action against your friend to recover any damages or costs incurred as a result of the accident.
If you are concerned about liability in this situation, you should consider consulting an attorney who can advise you on your legal rights and options. He or she can also help you navigate any legal proceedings or insurance claims that may arise as a result of the accident.
You should always make sure that anyone you lend your vehicle to is legally able to drive. When unsure, ask for proof of an auto insurance policy and a valid driver’s license beforehand. If you have any doubts, it is better to err on the side of caution.
What If I am Found Liable for the Collision?
If you are found to be at fault, your car insurance policy may be used to cover the damages incurred since many car insurance policies follow the vehicle rather than the driver. However, if the damages exceed the limits of your coverage, you may be liable for the remaining amount.
This means, even if you were not personally the person driving in the car at the time, you could end up having to pay for:
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Legal fees
You may also be sued by the other driver or his or her passengers. In a situation where you are found to be at fault in an accident that caused serious injuries or death, you could also face criminal charges.
The specific laws and regulations regarding liability in such situations can vary, depending on your location and the circumstances of the accident, so it is advisable to consult with a legal professional for guidance.
Why Did My Car Insurance Refuse My Claim?
If you let someone else drive your car and he or she caused an accident, your car liability insurance may refuse to pay the claim. This is often because most car insurance policies exclude coverage if someone gets in an accident other than the policyholder.
Of course, each accident is unique. There could be additional reasons your auto insurance coverage was refused including – the jurisdiction where the accident took place. Cases involving a driver who does not own the car are often very complex, so it helps to hire an Arkansas attorney who is familiar with local laws.
Learn How Our Arkansas Car Accident Attorneys Can Help You
Hiring a car accident attorney is in your best interests, no matter who was driving your car. A car accident lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal system and protect your rights.
At Minton Law Firm, we have more than 25 years of experience in proudly helping clients throughout the state with difficult accident cases. Our team serves the residents of Little Rock – Pulaski County – Arkansas, Benton – Saline County – Arkansas, and Conway – Faulkner County – Arkansas.
We understand the legal system can be a stressful headache – especially if your problems were caused by someone else. We know the ins and outs of the insurance claims process and how to negotiate with your own insurance company to help you seek the compensation you deserve.
To schedule a consultation with a car accident attorney about your case, call Minton Law Firm today at 855-Xadjuster. You can also complete our online contact form. Our car accident lawyers are standing by to assist you.