Who Is Liable in an Accident with a Borrowed Vehicle?

August 10, 2023 | By Impact Legal Car Accident Attorneys
Who Is Liable in an Accident with a Borrowed Vehicle?

So you let your friend or family member borrow your car out of the goodness of your heart – now, your car is completely wrecked, another person's car is wrecked, and you're wondering who's liable for the damages? If you are curious about who is liable in a car accident with a borrowed car, keep reading. In this article, we'll discuss how insurance works in these types of scenarios and other frequently asked questions. 

If you've been in an accident (or your car has been in an accident), call or text our Arizona car accident lawyers at (602) 345-1818 or fill out this convenient and secure online form to request a free, no-obligation consultation. 

Who's At Fault in a Borrowed-Car Accident?

If you're the owner of the car, you're probably wondering how you could be at fault. After all, you weren't even present when the car accident happened, so you couldn't possibly be liable, right? Unfortunately, you might be found responsible, depending on the circumstances. In fact, figuring out who's liable in this scenario can be quite complicated. Some factors that owner liability may hinge on include:

  1. Was the driver who borrowed your car your underage minor?
  2. Did you give the driver permission to borrow your car?
  3. Does your policy specifically exclude the driver?
  4. Did the driver steal your car?
  5. Does your policy extend to the person driving the car?
  6. Does the person live in your house?
  7. Is the person an out-of-town relative?
  8. Did you imply permission for the driver to take your car?

It's important to look at these scenarios to determine if you are liable for an accident that happened in your car under the “care” of another person. 

Car Insurance Follows the Car, Not the Driver

Many people think that car insurance policies follow the driver. This is false. Car insurance policies will usually follow the car. Thus, in a borrowed-car accident, the owner's insurance will usually be the primary coverage. If secondary coverage is needed, the driver's coverage may be used. 

Let's use an example – say your niece borrows your car and gets into an accident because she was distracted by a text message. She was the cause of the accident due to her distracted driving (negligence). This means that your insurance policy would most likely be used as the primary coverage to pay for the resulting damages.  

Was the Driver Excluded From Your Policy?

In some cases, the driver who “borrowed” the car is specifically excluded from the owner's car insurance policy. In this scenario, the owner of the car may not be liable for the damages. 

Let's look at another example – say that your niece is horribly unreliable. She has a track record of drinking and driving, runs red lights, and doesn't even wear her seatbelt. You know this about her, so when you were setting up your insurance policy, you specifically excluded her in it. When she “borrows” your car without your permission and gets into an accident, you may not be held liable for her actions. However, you will need to prove that you did not give your niece permission to take your car. 

If you did provide permission for her to use your car, despite her being excluded on your policy, you may still be on the hook for the damages. 

Did You Imply Permission?

In some cases, you, as the owner, will most likely not be primarily liable. These cases may include the following scenarios:

  1. If an accident happens because someone stole your car, you should not be personally liable for any damage that results.
  2. If an insured friend takes your car without your permission, his or her coverage would serve as the primary payer, and if necessary your insurance may serve as secondary coverage.

However, in these scenarios, if you implied permission (i.e, gave them the keys), you may still be on the hook for the accident. Whether or not you are liable depends on the specific facts of the case. A car accident lawyer can help you decipher liability and advise you of the next best legal steps.  

What Is Negligent Entrustment?

Depending on the facts of the case, the doctrine of negligent entrustment may apply. Negligent entrustment happens when the vehicle owner is found liable for the borrowed car accident because he or she allowed the negligent driver to borrow his or her car, despite the driver being mentally or physically unfit to operate the vehicle without unreasonably putting others at risk.

A negligent entrustment claim will have the following elements: 

  1. The driver wasn't fit to reasonably operate the vehicle when he or she was given permission to do so
  2. The owner of the vehicle knew or should have known that the driver was unfit to reasonably operate the vehicle
  3. The vehicle owner entrusted the driver with the vehicle
  4. The fact that the driver was unfit to reasonably operate the vehicle caused the plaintiff to  suffer injuries

Call or Text Our Car Accident Lawyers Today

If you have been involved in a borrowed-vehicle accident, whether as a victim, at-fault driver, or defendant vehicle owner, give us a call or text to set up a free, no-obligation consultation today. To schedule your consultation and case review, call or text (602) 345-1818 if you're in Arizona or 602-345-1818 if you're in New Mexico. You may alternatively fill out our convenient and confidential online contact form, and we will reach out to you to schedule your appointment. 

Note that the information in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to be taken as legal advice. To get specific legal advice regarding your situation, call or text Impact Legal to set up your case review today. 

We are located in Arizona and New Mexico. We serve clients in Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, Peoria, Maricopa, and the entire state of Arizona. We also serve clients in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Roswell, Farmington, Los Alamos, Las Cruces, and the entire state of New Mexico.