What happens if someone gets in an accident driving your car?

A person takes a risk when he lets someone drive his vehicle. The owner remains responsible for the vehicle’s activity while someone else operates it. If the person gets in an accident, the vehicle owner and the insurance provider may have to compensate the accident victim. Pennsylvania has more than 12 million registered vehicles and over 9 million licensed drivers. The state’s roadways and highways also contain motorists and motor vehicles from other states, increasing daily automobile presence.  

Many people with driver’s licenses drive cars titled and insured in their names. However, some motorists drive vehicles that belong to someone else when they get permission from the owners. Whether the automobile a motorist operates is their own or someone else’s, they must follow the state traffic laws. However, car accidents still happen even when drivers try to be cautious. Some car collisions are minor fender benders, while other crashes may cause severe damages as well as life-threatening injuries or death. In 2020, Pennsylvania reported approximately 104,000 traffic accidents with over 60,000 injured people and a little over 1,100 deaths. If a person driving your car is at fault or the victim of a car accident, you may be held liable for the injuries and damages that arise from the crash.

Pennsylvania law requires vehicles registered in the state to have motor vehicle insurance for accident coverage of property damage and injuries to others. The insurance policy must have the minimum amount limits of:

  • $15,000 for injury to one person in one accident;
  • $30,000 total for two or more people in one accident; and
  • $5,000 for property damage to another’s property in one accident.  

The insurance covers the named insured, which are individuals listed by name in the policy. The coverage also includes spouses or relatives that reside in the household of the named insureds. The person you let drive your car may not fall into these categories. However, your insurance policy may contain a clause that provides coverage for drivers you permit to drive your vehicle.

When the permissive driver is at fault for causing a car accident, the driver who is not at fault may file a liability claim against the vehicle owner’s insurance policy. The victim driver may seek damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. The car owner’s mandatory property damage liability coverage also pays for the victim’s vehicle damage. If the claimant’s property and bodily injury damages exceed the vehicle owner’s policy limits, it is the responsibility of the permissive driver to pay the balance.

If the permissive driver is the accident victim, they may sue the at-fault driver for their injuries and damages. Unfortunately, the at-fault driver may not have car insurance. Therefore, the permissive driver may have an uninsured motor vehicle claim against the vehicle owner’s insurance. When an at-fault driver has insurance, but the policy limits do not cover all of the permissive driver’s damages, the driver may file an underinsured motorist coverage claim with the vehicle owner’s insurance. In Pennsylvania, uninsured and underinsured motor vehicle coverages are optional and additional to the mandatory state insurance requirements.

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