Who is liable in a car accident: the owner or the driver?
How will the insurance company handle your damage claim?
And what if you are injured by the negligent driver of a vehicle who is not the vehicle’s owner?
Can an Atlanta car accident attorney help?
There’s a lot to consider, but keep reading, and you’ll learn the answers every driver in Georgia needs to know.
THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING YOUR AUTO INSURANCE POLICY
In the state of Georgia, if anyone other than you drives your personal vehicle, make certain that you thoroughly understand the terms and conditions of your automobile insurance policy.
Policies differ, so if you loan your vehicle, you need to know how your auto insurance works if another driver crashes your car.
Although policies differ in the details, most automobile insurance policies cover any licensed driver who is living in your household, unless a driver is specifically excluded from coverage by the policy.
In fact, some auto insurance policies require all of the drivers in a household to be specifically included in the coverage.
WHAT IS “PERMISSIVE USE” AND HOW DOES IT AFFECT A CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM?
If you have family members or friends who occasionally borrow and drive your vehicle, you probably do not have to worry about their auto insurance coverage, provided that they are licensed drivers.
Most automobile insurance policies provide coverage for what is called the “permissive use” of the vehicle with the owner’s consent.
The basic principle to remember is that when you loan your vehicle, you are also loaning your vehicle’s insurance.
And even if you loan your vehicle to someone who holds another auto insurance policy, when that person drives your vehicle, your own policy provides the primary coverage, and that driver’s policy will (in most cases) provide secondary or excess coverage.
Most automobile insurance policies cover particular vehicles, so a policy “follows” the vehicle rather than the driver.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LET SOMEONE ELSE DRIVE YOUR CAR AND HE OR SHE CRASHES IT?
Let’s say that you loan your vehicle to your next-door neighbor, Pat, to buy groceries, because Pat’s own car is in the shop.
Pat crashes your car into another vehicle in the parking lot of the supermarket, so the primary coverage that will pay for the other driver’s damages is your own auto liability coverage.
You’ll have to file the claim with your auto insurance company and pay the deductible.
You’ll also probably have to deal with a subsequent rate increase.
If the other driver’s damages surpass your own policy’s limits, and Pat has his or her own has separate coverage, in most cases, at that point, Pat’s coverage will kick in.
On the other hand, if the collision was not Pat’s fault but the other driver’s, your claim would be paid by the other driver’s coverage – provided that driver is not uninsured or underinsured – and your own automobile insurance would not be affected.
In any event, if you did not give permission to someone outside of your household to use your vehicle, but that person takes the vehicle anyway and causes a collision, you should not be held liable for damages.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO PROVE THAT YOU DID OR DIDN’T LOAN YOUR VEHICLE?
However, unless you can prove that your vehicle was taken without your consent, if the person who took it causes an accident, you may be held liable for damages anyway.
Especially if a friend or neighbor has borrowed your vehicle in the past, it can be almost impossible to prove that you did not give permission in a subsequent instance.
You can also be sued and held liable if you loan your car to an unlicensed driver or to an impaired or intoxicated driver who causes an accident.
Of course, if your vehicle is stolen and the thief crashes into someone, you will not be liable for the other driver’s damages, and your damages will be paid for by your own policy.
As stated previously, if you loan your vehicle to anyone for any reason, it’s imperative to understand your auto insurance policy’s provisions, terms, and conditions.
Your policy will tell you who can drive your vehicle, who can’t, and what happens if you loan your car to someone who gets involved in an accident.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT IN ATLANTA
What if you are the person who’s injured by a negligent motorist driving a vehicle that he or she does not own?
If you are injured in a collision by any negligent driver in the state of Georgia, it’s imperative – as soon as possible after you’ve obtained medical treatment – to discuss your legal rights and options with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney.
When you are injured by another person’s negligence in this state, the law is on your side, and you’re entitled to full compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and personal suffering arising from the accident and injury.
Especially when a negligent driver was driving a vehicle that he or she did not own, a personal injury case can get legally complicated fast, and you’ll need an injury lawyer’s guidance and advice.
HOW CAN AN ATLANTA PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY HELP AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT?
Don’t try to negotiate an injury claim by yourself.
Negotiating on your own with an insurance company might be fine if you sustain only vehicle damage, but if you’ve been injured, your health and your future are too important to risk.
If you’re injured by a negligent motorist who does not own the vehicle that he or she was driving, a skilled Atlanta personal injury attorney can determine who is liable for your injury and negotiate a claim on your behalf.
For example, employers may be held liable for negligence, including negligent driving, when an employee is negligent while performing job-related duties.
In most cases, if an employee who is “on the clock” collides with another vehicle while operating an employer-owned vehicle, the employer can be held accountable for the accident and injuries.
Whether you are a parent, an employer, or just a friend or neighbor, don’t loan your vehicle to a driver who falls into one of the following categories.
Under the legal doctrine called “negligent entrustment,” the owner of a vehicle may be held accountable for injuries and related damages caused by these kinds of drivers:
- underage, inexperienced, and unlicensed drivers
- drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- anyone who is injured, ill, or taking medication for an injury or illness
- any driver who is known to the vehicle’s owner as an irresponsible or reckless driver
If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver in Georgia, you are entitled to both compensation and justice.
A qualified Atlanta personal injury attorney can provide sound legal advice, aggressive representation, protect your rights, and bring your personal injury case to its best possible resolution.