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

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

If you are in an accident in your car, you will typically file a claim with your insurance company to cover your damages and injuries. But what happens if you get into a car accident in a friend’s car?

Generally, auto insurance follows the car, not the river. So, the car owner’s insurance policy will usually cover damages and injuries. Exceptions, however, may apply.

Learn more below about handling car accidents when driving a friend’s vehicle and if a friend drives your vehicle. If you have additional questions or want to file a claim, speak to a car accident attorney in Spring Hill.

Understanding Permissive And Non-Permissive Use

For auto accidents that occur when someone is driving another person’s vehicle, permissive and non-permissive use applies.

Getting Into a Car Accident in a Friend's Car Who is Liable The Car Owner or the Driver

Permissive use means that the person had the owner’s permission to drive the car. The owner's insurance policy usually pays if you or someone else has the vehicle owner’s permission.

If you get in an accident in a friend’s car without permission, their insurance policy may not cover the claim. Your insurance policy may have to step in and pay the damages.

When borrowing a friend’s car, get the owner's express permission. Otherwise, insurance may not cover an accident. You should not assume without confirming with your friend that you have their express permission to drive the vehicle.

Accident Liability When Driving A Friend’s Car

Assuming you had permission to drive your friend’s car, their auto insurance should cover the accident; an auto insurance policy generally follows the car, not the driver.

If the damages and injuries exceed their policy limits, you will typically file a claim with your auto insurance company. If you were in an accident in your friend’s car and the damages exceed policy limits, talk to a car accident attorney for more information.

Who has permission to drive another person’s vehicle? From the auto insurance perspective, a member of the same household, someone listed on the policy as a covered driver, or the owner specifically gave you permission to drive the vehicle.

The car insurance company can question the accident claim if you are not in any of these categories.

Household Members Are Covered

Most auto insurance companies will automatically cover anyone living in the primary driver’s home. So, if you have a driver’s license and drove your spouse’s car, the policy on the car will probably cover you.

The same is true if your 17-year-old son on your policy got in an accident in the vehicle - the insurance policy will cover the damages.

However, if you drove the car of a person you live with but are not related to, such as someone renting a room, the matter can be more complex. Speaking to a car accident attorney can help if you are in this situation and have had an accident with injuries.

Drivers On The Policy Are Covered

If you aren’t living in the policyholder’s household but drive the car often, the car owner may put you on the policy as a covered driver. Suppose you work for someone as their secretary and often need to drive their car to run errands for work. 

While you aren’t related to your boss and don’t live with them, they can still put you on their auto insurance policy. So, if you are in a car accident while driving their car, there won’t be any questions about the policy covering the incident.

Drivers With Permission To Drive Car Are Covered

Car Accident in a Friend's Car

Suppose you aren’t related to the car owner or live in their home. You’re a friend, and they expressly gave you permission to drive the car. If you get in an accident, it should be covered by their insurance policy.

Suppose you asked to borrow your friend’s SUV to go to the grocery store for food, and you get in a crash. The insurer should cover this accident if you had permission to use the car.

But what if you decided to go to a bar afterward and got in an accident on the way home? The insurance company may object to covering the accident in this case. In this situation, it is helpful to speak to an experienced car accident attorney; they can offer legal advice for getting the accident covered by the owner’s policy.

Excluded Drivers

Drivers who use the car often and/or do not live in the policyholder’s home can be added to an auto insurance policy. The policyholder also can exclude specific drivers.

For example, a parent may exclude one of their older children from the car insurance policy because they are reckless and have a DUI. If the older child gets in an accident with the parent’s car, the child’s insurance policy must cover the incident.

Accident Liability When Someone Drove Your Car

What happens if you permit someone to use your car and they wreck it? The situation is largely the same as if you get in an accident in your friend’s vehicle. 

Auto insurance typically follows the vehicle, not the driver. So, if your friend borrows your car and crashes it, your auto insurance policy will probably be primary for any damages and injuries. Your friend’s auto insurance policy will probably not cover accident damages if they were driving your car.

Your insurance policy usually covers the accident, assuming your friend has a driver’s license and doesn’t borrow your car regularly. If they drive your car a lot, they should be listed on your auto insurance policy.

The friend’s insurance policy will probably be secondary coverage if the claim exceeds your policy limits. This can happen because many drivers only carry the state minimum insurance required, often $25,000 per person for bodily injury. It does not take long for that amount to be used up for a car accident with serious injuries.

However, auto insurance policies differ. For example, some policies can exclude drivers, even household members, unless the policy lists them specifically. Second- and third-tier insurance providers sell This step-down policy at a very low price. These policies are inexpensive because they exclude most people other than the primary driver.

You may not even have to pay for injuries and damages if your friend is in a crash in your car. The incident may have been another driver’s fault, which usually means their insurance will pay for the accident.

You Could Have Higher Insurance Premiums

If someone with permission to use your car gets in an accident, your insurance will probably cover it. But even if you were not in the car at the time, the accident can make your insurance rates increase.

Accident Liability

U.S. News & World Report states that auto insurance rates increase an average of $665 annually after a crash. You might even see a bigger jump if the friend has lived in your home and borrowed your car often, but they weren’t listed on your policy. The possibility of insurance hikes after a car accident means you should be careful about who you allow to drive your vehicle.

You also can face problems with your insurance company if your friend isn’t licensed or if you let them drive while intoxicated. Or, the friend has had six traffic tickets in the last year. Also, the insurance company can deny the claim if the friend was texting and driving.

Suing A Friend For Crashing Your Vehicle

Another common scenario is if a friend borrows your car and wrecks it. The damages are more than $15,000, and your auto insurance policy may not cover them. Can you sue your friend for damages?

There are two major components to this question. First, did your friend have permission to drive your car? Second, does your friend have their own insurance? 

If the friend was at fault and had permission to drive your car, your auto insurance will usually cover the claim first. If your friend didn’t cause the accident and had permission, the at-fault party’s auto insurance will cover the damages.

However, If you did not permit your friend to drive the car, technically, the vehicle was stolen. So, their insurance will probably have to pay for the accident.

If the friend was at fault and you do not have insurance, and your friend is also uninsured, suing them will be difficult. There is no insurance coverage. Unless the person has assets you can go after, you may have to pay out of pocket for the accident. If you allow a friend to borrow your car, ensure both of you are insured!

What if a Friend Drives Your Car and Crashes It With Minimal Damage? 

If you loan your car to a friend and they cause minor damage in a crash, your insurance policy should pay if you have collision coverage. Even if the friend has their own policy, the claim is usually against your collision policy.

You must cover your deductible, and your rates can increase. But, at least your car’s damages will be paid for.

What if the Friend Has Insurance and Causes a Major Accident? 

Suppose your friend had permission to drive your car and got in an accident with serious injuries and property damage. In this case, your policy’s liability coverage will pay.

auto insurance

Liability insurance pays for the damages your friend caused to others and their vehicles. Your liability coverage also will protect you if someone files a lawsuit against you.

Liability coverage is almost always mandatory for driving on public roads, but state minimum coverage varies. Remember that if you only carry $25,000 or $30,000 of liability coverage, there may not be enough money available if a friend causes a severe accident.

You can lose your personal assets if the accident damages exceed policy limits. In some states, a civil lawsuit stemming from an auto accident can put even your home at risk, so it’s smart to carry plenty of insurance coverage.

What If A Friend Wrecks Your Car, And They Aren’t On Your Policy? 

As noted earlier, if the person had permission to drive your car, the damages will be covered by your policy. However, things can get tricky if you let a friend drive your car every week and they aren’t on your policy.

If the insurance company learns they are driving the car often and aren’t on the policy, they can deny coverage. That’s why you should have people listed on your policy if they drive the car often. Whether they are in your household or not, putting their name on your policy ensures your vehicle is covered in an accident.

James Holliday
James Holliday, Car Accident Lawyer in Spring Hill

However, your insurance probably won't have to pay if your friend took your car without permission and wrecked it. Their insurance policy will have to cover the damages.

Note that most auto insurance companies assume that your friend had permission to use the vehicle. But the accident may not be covered if the friend argued with you and took off without your permission.


Generally, auto insurance follows the car, not the driver. If you borrow and crash a friend’s car, the friend’s insurance policy usually pays for the property damage and injuries.

If a friend borrows your car and gets in an accident, your insurance policy coverage will usually kick in. but, as noted above, there are exceptions to these rules, especially when the person driving the car didn’t have the owner’s permission.

Speak to a car accident lawyer if you have detailed questions when another person is in an accident in someone else’s car.

Speak to a Car Accident Attorney Today 

Being in a car accident is always a headache, but the problems may compound if you were driving a friend’s car, or they were driving yours. A car accident attorney can be valuable in a complex accident case with severe injuries. Speak to an experienced car accident attorney in your area today to learn more.

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James Wayne Holliday

James Wayne Holliday has been practicing law since 1995. He has been named as a “Best Attorney” Lifetime Charter Member in Florida, an honor awarded to less than one percent of the nation’s lawyers.

Mr. Holliday has earned a reputation as a relentless trial lawyer because of his outstanding work ethic and thorough preparation of his cases for trial.

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