What Happens if Someone Else is Driving My Car and Gets in an Accident?
We’ve all been there – your friend or family member needs to borrow your car for a quick errand. You hand over the keys, assuming it’s no big deal. But what happens if they get into an accident while driving your vehicle? Are you on the hook for the damages?
Get ready to navigate a tricky legal situation. When someone else is driving your car, liability gets confusing fast. But with some preparation and knowledge of the applicable Wisconsin laws, you can handle the aftermath of an accident appropriately.
Did You Give Permission to Drive Your Car?
Before determining liability, the first question is: did the driver have express permission to operate your car? There’s a big difference between lending your car to a friend and having someone take your vehicle without your approval.
If you gave your friend, coworker, or family member specific consent to use the car, insurance will view the situation differently than if the vehicle was taken without permission.
In Wisconsin, if someone drives your car without your permission, it may be considered an unauthorized use. This may provide you some protection from liability under your insurance policy or in a lawsuit.
Reviewing Relevant Insurance Policies
To fully understand liability, you need to be familiar with the insurance coverage applicable in an accident. Liability insurance covers damage you or authorized drivers cause to others and their property. It will typically pay for the other driver’s repairs if you or an allowed driver causes an accident.
Collision insurance, on the other hand, covers damage to your own vehicle after an accident, regardless of who caused it. This pays for your car repairs. Insurance companies will investigate the accident to determine fault.
Does Insurance Follow the Car or the Driver in Wisconsin?
When it comes to liability insurance in Wisconsin, coverage typically follows the car rather than the driver. This means the insurance policy on the vehicle involved in an accident will be responsible for covering damages, regardless of who was operating the vehicle at the time.
So, if you lend your car to a friend or family member and they cause an accident, your insurance policy would be applied to the damages and claims stemming from the incident.
What if the Other Driver is Uninsured?
Here’s where things get tricky. What if the person driving your car gets into an accident with another driver who has no insurance?
Liability coverage on your policy would typically only pay for damage your driver causes to the other party’s vehicle. It does not cover your own car’s repairs if you were hit by an uninsured driver.
In addition to your collision coverage, your uninsured motorist coverage (if applicable) would apply since it covers injuries to you or your passengers and damage to your vehicle caused by an uninsured driver.
If your insurance policy does not include uninsured motorist coverage, you could take legal action and sue the uninsured driver who caused the accident for the damage to your car. Hire a car accident attorney to help determine if the at-fault driver has sufficient assets to collect on a judgment.
What to Do If Someone Else Wrecks Your Car
Discovering your car has been wrecked by another driver can be upsetting and confusing. Here are important steps to take after the accident:
- Contact law enforcement to file an official report if there wasn’t one created at the scene. Provide license and insurance information for both drivers. Get full contact details for the other driver.
- Notify your insurance provider about the incident right away. Explain that someone else was driving your car with your permission. Cooperate fully with your adjuster’s investigation.
- Do not automatically accept blame. Fault will be determined based on factors like road conditions, witness statements, and physical evidence. Let your insurer make an informed decision.
- Mitigate further damages. Make reasonable repairs to get your car safely drivable again. Save receipts for reimbursement.
- Explore your policy protections. Review your liability, collision, and uninsured motorist coverages. Understand how claim payouts are calculated.
- Consider hiring an attorney. If substantial property damage occurs, having legal guidance can help you pursue maximum compensation.
Staying calm under pressure and knowing what steps to take immediately after an accident can help ensure you are protected. Let our experienced attorneys assist if you have any questions during the claims process.
The Bottom Line
Whenever you allow someone to operate your vehicle, risks are involved. However, understanding Wisconsin laws around permission, liability, and insurance can give you confidence.
Document evidence, follow protocols, and don’t hesitate to call an attorney if the accident gets complicated. With smart actions, you can smoothly resolve issues when someone else wrecks your car.