Most drivers know a little about the process of dealing with a car accident when they’re directly involved. But what happens if someone else is driving my car and gets in an accident? Unfortunately, this is a question we often hear from people who find themselves in this situation. We thought we’d cover the answer in this blog post to help others wondering what happens next. It will cover the process for car accidents like this in Colorado. So, if you’re in another state, please be aware the rules may be different there.
The process for dealing with a car accident involving your vehicle and another driver isn’t straightforward. There are several questions we need to consider to determine what happens next. In this post, we’ll talk through them and provide you with some tips to help you get the best outcome. Here’s what you need to think about:
What If Someone Else Is Driving My Car And Gets In An Accident?
This question is potentially the most important to answer: did you permit the other person to drive your car?
What happens next will depend on the answer. Here in Colorado, if you give someone permission to use your car, you also provide them with permission to use your insurance. This is because most insurance policies in Colorado cover the vehicle itself and not the driver. This type of insurance is known as “primary insurance” — it means your insurance policy will pay out before the driver’s if an accident involving your car happens.
If you didn’t permit the other person to drive your car, the answers aren’t as clear-cut and depend on the accident’s circumstances. We’ll cover this in more detail later.
Who caused the accident?
Once you’ve established whether the driver has permission to use your car, you need to know who caused the accident. Again, this will determine the next steps you need to take.
If the person driving your car caused the accident, your insurance would be responsible for paying out the relevant costs associated with the accident. This responsibility arises as Colorado is a no-fault state, meaning the person to blame for the accident is usually the one that foots the bill. This at-fault rule has been in place since 2003, when Colorado law changed from the older “no-fault” rules that existed at the time. Under the previous regulations, drivers claimed on their own insurance policies after an accident, regardless of blame. But this is no longer the case.
Compared to the old system, the new rules dealing with car accident claims are more complex. Previously, there was no need to establish who caused the accident. This requirement becomes even more complicated when one of the drivers involved in the accident isn’t the owner, as the claim involves an additional party.
In summary, if the person at fault was driving your car, your insurance provider will need to cover any damages. This is because it’s the car that’s insured and not the driver. If the person at fault was driving the other vehicle involved, you would need to claim against their insurance policy for damages.
Confusing matters even further, Colorado law also uses a modified version of comparative negligence rules to determine what a person can claim and from where. In other words, the responsibility isn’t always allocated 100% to one driver — it is often split between two or more parties involved in the collision. If a person is determined partially responsible for the accident — provided their share of the blame falls below 50% — they can still seek compensation. The amount they are eligible to claim gets reduced according to how much responsibility belongs to them. If the person driving the vehicle was more than 50% to blame for the accident, they could not claim for their injuries.
Did anyone get injured?
It’s also essential to consider whether any injuries occurred during the collision. If they did, it doesn’t necessarily change the process — but it can dramatically change the outcomes. This difference is especially true if any severe injuries or fatalities occurred. In these circumstances, you should seek legal assistance as early as possible, even though you weren’t directly involved in the car accident.
Minor injuries will be dealt with using the usual process. Still, the extent to which your insurance company will cover these depends on the type of policy you have. In some cases, your insurance will not cover the total amount because of limits on your policy. The person driving your car may therefore be required to use their insurance policy to plug the gap.
Was there any reason not to let the person drive your car?
This question may seem a little strange, but it’s essential to understand some circumstances where you can be personally liable for the accident. And this applies even if you weren’t in the car at the time.
This rule applies when you have been negligent in allowing someone to drive your car when you shouldn’t have. For example, the person you loaned your vehicle to was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, doesn’t have a driver’s license, or has been disqualified from driving.
What does your insurance cover?
We alluded to this earlier, but you need to be clear on what is and isn’t included in your insurance policy. Often, the policies that people take out have limits — and your insurance provider will only pay claims up to these limits. However, Colorado law sets out the minimum coverage insurers must provide.
As we’ve already mentioned, the person driving your car may be required to use their insurance provider to cover the difference.
This adds another layer of complexity. It introduces another third party (the insurance provider) into proceedings, which can delay the process.
10 tips if someone else got into an accident in your car (with permission)
So what should you do if someone crashes your car after you have permitted them to drive it?
Here are 10 tips from our lawyers, based on their experiences of dealing with such cases:
1. Work with the driver
We know how frustrating it can be when a friend or relative gets into a car accident in your vehicle. If it wasn’t their fault, you’ve likely been empathetic and understanding. But what if it was their fault?
Keep your cool as much as possible and work with them to establish what happened and why. If you get angry or fly off the handle, they can become less cooperative — and you need to collaborate with them to progress the case and get the best outcomes. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t let them know how you feel. Still, it’s crucial to keep communication lines open, at least until the claims associated with the accident are resolved.
2. Get the facts
Once you’re over the initial shock and upset, you should seek to find out all the facts. How did the accident happen? Who caused it? Did one person make an obvious mistake, or did a combination of errors lead to the collision? What did other people say at the scene? Were there any witnesses? Did anyone admit to being at fault on the scene?
These are all critical questions that will help you establish what happened, at least from the perspective of the person driving your vehicle at the time.
Colorado law also states we must file a police report following an accident. The police report can provide a more objective view of what happened at the scene. It is also the version of events most likely to be used by the insurance companies to establish fault, as the report is considered more reliable than the accounts provided by the people directly involved in the accident.
3. Collect any evidence from the scene
Evidence from the scene can also help build a more objective picture of what happened. Even if you trust the person who was driving your car, they may misremember events. Often, car accidents happen so quickly that it can be hard to recall the events that led up to them. This difficulty can result in people either overestimating or underestimating their involvement.
Evidence from the scene, such as photos, debris, or tire marks, can help establish what happened. They don’t provide a full picture, but they’re more likely to be taken seriously when the evidence corroborates reports from the scene. Hopefully, the person driving your vehicle took photos of the accident scene before they left, so you can ask to see them to help build your understanding.
A visit back to the scene can also help you visualize what happened.
4. Speak to all parties involved in the accident
If you can, try to speak to all parties involved in the accident. If the person driving your car took contact details from the other party or parties, you might be able to hear the story from their perspective.
Doing so will help you figure out who was at fault and can also help you figure out how the case is likely to play out. For example, if their story conflicts with your driver’s version of events, you can assume it’s not going to be a cut-and-dry case to resolve. Likewise, if the other party mentions their injuries, this will likely form part of the claim.
5. Take detailed notes
It’s a good idea to take detailed notes throughout the process. Whenever you speak to someone involved — the driver of your vehicle, the other parties involved, witnesses, insurance providers — make a record of what’s said.
Doing so can provide you with something to refer back to if you need it later. Sometimes, people change their story as the claim progresses — so if you have notes to refer back to, you’re not just relying on your memory.
Notes are also extremely helpful to any lawyers that might get involved to help establish what is known about the accident.
6. Contact your insurer
Even if it seems clear that the person driving your car wasn’t at fault, you should let your insurer know what’s happened at the earliest opportunity.
All insurance providers have different processes for dealing with car insurance claims, so you can find out what is expected from their end.
7. Understand your insurance policy
Your insurer can also help you understand your policy, including the limits we mentioned earlier. The person driving your car may find it useful to know this information, as it could indicate when they may need to get their own insurer involved.
8. Be patient
Car accident claims can take a while to resolve. When the person driving your car wasn’t you, it can take longer as it may be harder to establish the facts.
It’s important to be patient while the insurers determine who was at fault.
9. Prove you weren’t negligent
As we mentioned earlier, you may be personally liable for the accident if you allowed someone to drive your car when they shouldn’t have.
If there’s a chance you could be accused of negligence, you should gather evidence that proves you weren’t. For example, if the person driving your car was found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you may be required to prove you weren’t aware of this when you handed over the keys.
10. Speak to a lawyer at the earliest opportunity
When accidents happened in your vehicle when you weren’t there, it can be a stressful process. The incident might have left you without a car, or you may be worried about what happens next. We recommend consulting with an attorney as soon as possible. Legal assistance can help you resolve the case quickly and with the best outcomes. Car accident lawyers also understand how insurance providers work. So if you’re seeking compensation, we can help you get a fair settlement to repair damages caused by the accident.
What if you didn’t give permission?
If you didn’t permit the person to drive your car, the process usually differs somewhat, depending on the accident’s circumstances.
If your car was stolen, and you don’t know the person who stole it, you won’t usually be held liable for any damages to another person’s vehicle. However, you will likely need to claim on your own insurance policy for damages to your car.
If you know the person who was driving your car, it’s a little more complicated, and you will be expected to prove you didn’t permit them to drive your car. If you can’t prove this, you may need to follow the process outlined above for people who were driving with permission.
If you’re experiencing anything we’ve mentioned in this post, please get in touch to find out how we can help you.