You have family in town for the weekend and you let your sister-in-law drive everyone to the restaurant in your car. The kids need to get to soccer practice so your babysitter drives them to the field. How many times do these scenarios come up for you? Most people will run into occasions when they lend out their vehicle to a friend, a family member, their kids, a roommate, a significant other, or even an employee. It’s unlikely that every time you gave someone permission to use your car that you were thinking about them getting in an accident; rather, if you were thinking about an accident occurring, you probably would not have lent the vehicle in the first place.
But what if they did? What happens when it’s your car that’s in an accident, but it wasn’t you behind the wheel when it happened? Many South Carolina vehicle owners aren’t sure whether it’s their insurance that pays or the insurance of the person who was driving the borrowed car that will pay for any damages.
Does Insurance Follows the Car or the Driver?
Which insurance will come into play depends on a several variables, particularly which kind of insurance coverage the vehicle owner and the driver have. Depending on the type of coverage, the insurance may follow the car or the driver. Contrary to what many drivers believe, most insurance follows the car rather than the driver. Typically this means that if the other person had permission to use your car, your insurance will serve as the primary coverage while the insurance of the person borrowing your car may come in as secondary coverage if necessary.
In South Carolina all drivers are required to obtain auto liability insurance which includes three parts: bodily injury liability, property damage liability, and uninsured motorist coverage. This type of insurance does follow the driver around and they are still covered when driving another person’s car. Even if the person who borrows your vehicle has liability insurance, as long as you gave them permission to use your car, it’s your auto insurance coverage that will be used if the accident was caused by the person driving your car. This means you’ll have to file a claim with your insurance company, pay any deductibles, and have your rate hiked. If the damages exceed your policy, the policy of the person who you lent the car to will kick in.
Property Damage – Comprehensive and Collision Insurance Coverage
Comprehensive and collision coverage follow the vehicle, not the driver. Typically these policies will cover almost everything, from vandalism to accidents, for the insured car. The charges for comprehensive and collision coverage are most often higher than standard liability coverage and carry with them additional expenses. However, it does mean that if someone else has an accident in your car, it will be taken care. Of course, there are a number of stipulations, such as who is listed as a covered driver under the policy. For most policies, this includes family members (spouse and children).
Permissive, Non-Permissive Use, and Excluded Drivers
Another very important aspect of how insurance policies work for another person driving your car is whether or not the person had permission to drive your vehicle.
People who have permission to drive your vehicle are considered permissive drivers. Generally you car insurance will include a provision that covers any driver, family members, dependent children away at school as long as they had your consent to use the vehicle. It’s important to note, however, certain policies are reduced when any permissive driver is operating your car.
There are options to exclude specific drivers from your auto insurance policy. For example, if your brother has a poor driving record, you can choose to exclude from your insurance policy. This means any damages caused by him would not be covered under the insurance and he would have to rely on his own insurance to pay for damages that occurred if he got in a crash in your vehicle.
The owner of the vehicle is usually not responsible for any damages if the vehicle was taken without permission. Unless the vehicle was stolen, however, it can be difficult proving you did not give your permission and you may be held liable regardless. Under circumstances where it’s obvious that you did not allow another driver the use of your vehicle, a few different scenarios might happen, including:
- Stolen vehicle – The owner of the vehicle is not responsible for damages or injuries to another vehicle or driver if the car was stolen by the driver who caused the accident. However, if your vehicle was damaged in the accident, it would likely be covered your own policy.
- Friend or family member uses car – If one of your friends or family members drives your car without your permission and you could prove it, their own coverage would become the primary coverage and yours would likely be used if the damages exceeded their policy.
- Uninsured friend uses your car – If your friend, who doesn’t have auto insurance, takes your car without permission, it will fall upon you to pay any damages with your own insurance coverage.
Check Your Policy
When lending out your vehicle, it’s not as important to ask whether the insurance follows the driver or the vehicle, but rather if the person borrowing your vehicle will be covered under your vehicle insurance. Because auto policies vary to such a great degree, it is extremely important that you know and understand the specifics of your policy before lending out your vehicle. Some insurance policies only cover the driver listed on the policy. There are also policies that take into account whether the person borrowing the car resides with the owner of the policy or whether the person is specifically listed as a covered driver.
Car accidents and figuring out insurance are never simple affairs, especially if it’s someone else driving your vehicle. If you have questions or need help with a car accident claim, contact the car accident injury lawyers at Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm firm to speak to an attorney about your concerns. With extensive experience in car accident law, we’ll help sort out the damages so you don’t have to.
Dan Pruitt is a Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from University of Georgia, and has been practicing law for 25 years. Dan Pruitt believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.