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Getting Into a Car Accident in a Friend’s Car: Who Is Liable? The Car Owner or the Driver?

By December 20, 2023December 31st, 2023No Comments

An auto accident can cause injuries, medical bills, lost work time, and many liability questions. If a friend was driving your car when the accident happened, or you were driving theirs, you may find a lack of clarity regarding whose insurance policy pays for what.

Below is some general information about which insurance policy pays when a friend’s car is in an accident. To discuss your specific circumstances and legal options, consult a car accident attorney in Chico immediately.


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Car Insurance Follows the Vehicle, Usually

Getting Into a Car Accident in a Friend’s Car Who Is Liable The Car Owner or the DriverAuto insurance usually follows the vehicle, not the driver. If your friend borrows your car, your auto insurance usually applies if there is an accident.

Suppose your friend borrowed your car and crashed it. In that case, your auto collision insurance will usually cover damages to the car, and your liability policy will cover damages and injuries that your friend caused in the crash.

In most cases, your friend’s auto insurance won’t cover damages from an accident when they drive your vehicle.

Your auto insurance will usually pay for your friend’s accident, assuming they are a licensed driver and don’t borrow your car often. However, if they drive your car every week, they should probably be on your policy anyway. If your auto insurance is maxed out because of the friend’s accident, your friend’s insurance may kick in as secondary coverage.

That said, there are significant variations in auto insurance policies, and the information above is not always applicable. For example, some car insurance policies exclude other drivers, including family members in your home, unless the policy lists them.

Insurance companies often market these step-down policies as inexpensive policies for higher-risk drivers. They cost so little because they only cover the primary driver. If you buy a standard auto insurance policy, the step-down issue shouldn’t present a problem.

Furthermore, your auto insurance might not be responsible for injuries or damages from the accident if your friend didn’t cause it.

Permissive and Non-Permissive Use

A vital aspect of any accident involving a friend driving someone else’s vehicle is permissive vs. non-permissive use. Permissive use means you or your friend had permission to drive the vehicle.

If your friend borrowed your truck and didn’t have permission, this is non-permissive use. Sometimes, your friend’s policy will kick in to cover damages because they didn’t have permission to use your car. But if your friend is uninsured, your policy must cover damages.

What Happens if Your Friend Has Their Own Auto Insurance Policy?

As noted earlier on this page, if the friend driving your car has their own policy, it will be secondary to yours in an accident. This means it may kick in and pay for injuries and damages once your policy is exhausted. This can occur if your friend caused an accident in your vehicle and serious injuries result.

Because they were at fault, your insurance must cover the damages, but suppose your policy only pays up to $25,000. So, your friend’s policy may need to cover damages once yours is exhausted.

Can Your Auto Insurance Policy Refuse To Pay?

Yes, there are limited situations where your insurance company may refuse coverage, such as if your friend was driving. It can happen if your friend took your vehicle without asking you, or the person driving is excluded from your policy. Another example is if your friend was intoxicated when the crash happened.

It can be difficult to prove if your friend didn’t have permission to drive your car. If you can’t prove that they didn’t have your permission to drive, you can be stuck with paying financial damages for your friend’s accident.

This is a good time to consult with an experienced car accident attorney; they can advise on ensuring you don’t get stuck with an unfair car accident bill.

What If You’re Driving Your Friend’s Car?

It also is expected to wonder what your liability is for an accident when driving a friend’s car. Fortunately, driving someone else’s car is legal, assuming you have their permission.

As we already stated, insurance follows the car, not the driver. You can usually use the car owner’s insurance to cover any injuries and damages.

If you drove your friend’s car without their permission, you cannot use the owner’s auto insurance to pay for damages. You also can face criminal penalties, depending on the situation.

There also is a possibility that your friend’s auto insurance will deny the claim and won’t cover damages. This can happen if you broke the law and caused the crash, such as in drinking and driving or texting and driving.

Can You Sue Your Friend For Crashing Your Vehicle?

There are two significant issues to address with this question: whether the person had permission to drive your car and whether the person has their own auto insurance.

If your friend caused the accident and had permission to drive your car, your policy will usually be primary on the accident. The at-fault driver’s policy would be liable if your friend didn’t cause the crash and had permission to drive your car.

However, if you didn’t permit your friend to drive your car, the police and insurance company might consider it stolen, and their insurance may need to cover the accident.

If your friend caused the accident and neither of you has insurance, suing them for it probably won’t lead to compensation.

What Are Other Possible Liable Parties In Auto Accidents?

If someone is in a car accident in your car, there are cases where another party can be liable. Some of them are:

Other Drivers

Other drivers involved in the crash could be responsible for the accident if they were at fault. They may have run a red light, been speeding, texting, driving, or driving recklessly.

In these cases, their insurance may need to pay for the damages, not yours. Your attorney will review the accident evidence to determine if another driver was at fault.


If another driver was working during the crash, their employer may have to pay damages. For instance, a food delivery driver might run a red light and slam into your friend’s car. Per the rule of vicarious liability, the other driver’s employer can be responsible for their employee’s negligent actions.


Faulty vehicles or faulty parts also can cause a car accident, causing the driver to lose control. For example, if your friend drives your car and the brakes fail, the part manufacturer may be responsible for any injuries. Or, a defective airbag may not deploy and be the cause of your friend’s injuries.

Government Agencies

Poor road design or conditions may cause some auto accidents. You can hold the local government liable for damages if an unsafe road caused the crash.

Determining who was at fault for an accident is often tricky. If you have questions about accident liability, your auto accident attorney can pinpoint all potentially liable parties.

What Does A Car Accident Attorney Cost?

What Does A Car Accident Attorney CostAuto accident cases get more complex when someone is driving a friend’s car. Hiring a car accident lawyer to sort things out and maximize compensation is wise in this situation. However, many consumers fear hiring an attorney because of legal expenses, but you needn’t be concerned.

Most auto accident attorneys work on contingency. They aren’t paid until you receive a settlement or favorable verdict. The attorney receives a portion of the case proceeds, so you never need to worry about out-of-pocket legal expenses.

How Can You Avoid Auto Accident Cases Involving Friends?

None of us want to be in a car accident or held liable for one. The best way to avoid increased insurance rates and questions about accident liability is never to let a friend drive your car. You can avoid many legal and insurance headaches by only allowing you and family members in your household to use your car.

However, sometimes, friends may have an emergency, and you want to help. In this case, take time to understand your car insurance policy details. Most people have auto insurance but don’t know what happens if a friend gets in an accident with their vehicle.

Review your auto insurance policy with your insurance professional to understand this critical scenario.

Will Your Insurance Premiums Rise After Your Friend’s Accident?

Suppose your friend is in a severe car accident in your car, and your policy has to pay for the damages. In this case, your insurance premiums will likely rise. It will be true regardless of whether you were in the car when the accident happened.

You can also see an even more significant rise in insurance rates if you let your friend drive your car often or if the person lives with you and you don’t tell the insurance company. Depending on the case and insurance company, they can hike your rates or cancel the policy.

What Damages May an Auto Accident Recover?

If your friend suffers an injury in a car accident involving your vehicle, who will pay? Depends on the circumstances. But regardless, your friend can be entitled to various damages, depending on the severity of their injuries:

Economic Damages

Economic damages are property damage and injuries that lead to specific costs. These may include current and future medical expenses, physical therapy, lost income, lost earning capacity, and property damage.

Economic damages are usually relatively simple to calculate. However, if there were major injuries and property losses, financial, economic, and labor experts may need to be consulted to arrive at an accurate number.

Non-Economic Damages

Accidents also often involve non-economic damages, which are often referred to as pain and suffering. Some common non-economic damages are physical pain, mental and emotional anguish, scarring, disfigurement, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Common Auto Accident Injuries

Questions about which policy pays damages matter tremendously because auto accident injuries can be severe and life-changing, and these injuries can cost hundreds of thousands to treat.

When a vehicle hits another at even a low speed, debilitating injuries can require months or years of recovery, such as:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): Auto accidents cause many TBIs, which happen when the brain suffers an injury by a blow or piercing injury to the skull. About 50,000 people die from traumatic injuries annually.
  • Spinal cord injuries: Massive crash forces and torque can damage the spinal cord, causing nerve damage and even paralysis. Medical care for paralysis victims costs hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
  • Burns: Severe or fatal burns can occur if the car catches fire. If the victim survives, the pain and suffering from burns and skin grafts can be terrible.
  • Fractures: Shattered arms, legs, hands, feet, and ribs are common in serious car accidents.
  • Back and neck injuries: These are often soft tissue injuries that might not seem as severe as other injuries. But back and neck injuries can be severely debilitating, and it often takes your lawyer’s skill and tenacity to get full compensation for them from stingy insurance companies.

Speak To a Car Accident Attorney Now

Russell Reiner, Car Accident Lawyer

Car Accident Attorney, Russell Reiner

There is always considerable distress and uncertainty after a car accident, especially when the accident involves your friend’s vehicle. Complex liability issues may arise if you drove your friend’s car or they drove yours. Things can get even trickier if your friend doesn’t have permission to drive your car and causes an accident.

But you can rely on a skilled auto accident attorney for sound legal advice regardless of the car accident particulars. If another driver caused the accident, the injured party can recover compensation for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more.

Your Chico personal injury lawyer will work hard to determine who was at fault, whose insurance will pay, and to get the injured person the most compensation.

Seek a free legal consultation today, so you know your rights and what to expect from the claim process.

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