Liability For Accidents With Borrowed Vehicles - Texas Law
If you're injured in an accident by someone who borrowed the car they used to hit you, you're probably wondering, "Who is at fault, the driver or the owner?" While the question seems straight-forward enough, unfortunately, the answer is that it depends. As a general rule, when a person is driving a car that he is not the owner of, the car owner's insurance will be responsible for the damages that occurred as a result of the accident. This rule is not an absolute though; there are several factors that can alter this and several questions that need to be asked and answered:
Questions asked (and answered) on this page:
- First, did the driver of the car have permission to use the car?
- Does the owner of the car have insurance on the car?
- What was the intended use of the vehicle?
The answers to all these questions could affect who is responsible for the cost of your injuries and the damage to your car. Of course, every case is unique and if you have particular circumstances in your case you need help sorting out, feel free to call the attorneys at Grossman Law Offices.
Did the driver of the car have permission to use the car?
First of all, there are three ways to give and receive permission for the use of another's vehicle:
- Verbal permission
- Written permission
- Implied permission
Verbal permission is pretty simple; Someone asks, "Hey can I borrow your car?" and the owner says, "Sure." Whatever form it takes, verbal permission just means that the owner said that the borrower could use their vehicle. Written permission would be exactly the same as verbal permission only in some form of writing, like a text message, email, or even a note asking the borrower to take the car to pick up groceries from the store.
Implied permission, unlike the other two pretty straightforward methods, is determined through previous conduct between the owner and the borrower. If the borrower had open access to use the vehicle whenever he wanted, it will likely be determined that the owner gave permission - even if they did not give permission this specific time - to use the vehicle. If it is determined that the borrower had permission to use the vehicle, the owner's insurance will be responsible for your claim. The most obvious example of implied permission would be if a couple was dating and one of the partner's had a key to the other partner's car. It would be silly for someone to have a key to a vehicle that they did not have implied permission to drive, so the mere possession of the key indicates implied consent.
If it is determined that the borrower did not have permission, it would be considered a stolen car, and the borrower's insurance will be liable. If the borrower doesn't have permission, and doesn't have insurance, then you will likely be forced to file an uninsured motorist (UIM) claim with your own insurance company. While the police might be interested in prosecuting the person who stole the car, they will have next to no interest in your car accident injury claim. If you do have to file a UIM claim against your insurance company, you should definitely contact an attorney. Once your insurance company is on the hook for a claim, they start behaving just like any other insurance company in their desire to minimize your claim. A car accident attorney will ensure they you are treated fairly and recover what you are owed under the law.
What if the car owner does not have insurance?
When a car is borrowed, the car owner's insurance is liable for any damage that results from any accidents that the vehicle is used to cause. However, when the owner of the vehicle does not have any insurance on the vehicle, the driver's insurance instead will take responsibility for all damages except for the physical damage done to the owner's car. All of this assumes that the driver who borrowed the car is responsible for the accident. If they are not at fault then it really doesn't make a difference that they are in a borrowed car as it would be the other driver's insurance who would be liable for any damages that result from the accident.
What was the intended use of the vehicle when the accident happened?
Normally, the use of the vehicle will not have any effect on who is responsible, especially if the use was for such matters as temporary vehicle replacement or a truck used to move residences. However, if the person is borrowing the car for the use of a business, such as delivering pizzas, moving furniture, or anything other commercial activity that requires a vehicle, liability will shift to the driver. The law requires drivers engaged in these activities to purchase a separate, commercial insurance policy. This requirement, as well as specific language in most insurance contracts, nullifies the owners insurance in the event of commercial use. In these instances, drivers borrowing a vehicle for work are required to purchase a business or commercial auto insurance policy for coverage of the vehicle during this time.
If they do not, there is a chance that they are driving without valid insurance. In that case, if you were to be injured by a car that a driver has borrowed, the other insurance companies may claim that they are not on the hook for any injuries because the driver should have had a commercial policy. If you find yourself in this situation, your only recourse may be to go after the UIM on your own car policy.
Regardless of your status or the driver's, don't handle your car accident case alone.
Sorting out liability can be a complex business, that's why you should contact Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000. Generally, there is an insurance party somewhere that covers a car in most accidents. Car accident lawyer Michael Grossman has 25 years of personal injury experience and we are eager to assist you in any way we can.
If you have been injured in a car accident, here are some other articles you may find useful
- How Auto Liability Limits Work in Texas Car Accidents
- What to Do if the Police Report is Wrong?
- Signs You Need an Attorney
- What's My Case Worth?