By Travis Patterson
What might happen if your vehicle is in an accident when someone other than you is behind the wheel? When a friend or family member asks to borrow your car, you may not think about the implications of a car crash. You might think it is a generous act to help out a friend or neighbor. After all, wouldn’t they do the same for you? But before lending your vehicle, you should consider it carefully, as the consequences may not be as you expected.
First, before loaning your vehicle to anyone, make sure the driver has a valid license and check your auto insurance coverage language concerning other drivers. Consider checking the driver’s auto insurance coverage also, and know the limitations of both policies, like age limits and deductibles.
Here are some other key points you’ll need to consider if you lend your vehicle to someone else, and they get into a wreck.
3 Steps to Take after Someone Else Crashes Your Car
So you get that frantic phone call that your friend was in a car accident while driving your car. What do you do next?
Take these three steps immediately:
Step 1: Call 911
Whether you are present at the scene of the collision or not, this is the first step that must be taken. Not only is this an important action to alert medical personnel of any assistance needed on the scene, but it is also vital for the police to document the incident in a formal report.
A police report is crucial to any claim for damages that will be submitted to the insurance companies and helps establish basic facts of the loss, such as liability and possibly injuries.
If the insurance carrier tries to dispute liability, the police report could be invaluable, especially if there are more than two parties involved in the collision. Often insurance carriers will try and point the finger at you or someone other than their insured for causing or contributing to the cause of the accident, and the police report helps establish the truth of what happened.
Step 2: Collect Details
Gathering more information is essential, especially if you unable to obtain a police report. In this case, ensure that you note any names, contact details, license plate, insurance, and registration of the other party or parties involved in the collision. If there were any witnesses or Good Samaritans on the scene of the collision, it is a good idea to get their information as well. If you are not present at the scene, the driver of your vehicle must take these actions. It is good practice to discuss this possibility with the driver before you permit them to drive your car.
Again, the more information gathered at the scene, the more prepared you will be to make your case. Take pictures of the surroundings to establish the scene. Immediate pictures of property damage, orientation, and bodily injuries are incredibly valuable when building your case. Ask witnesses for their accounts of the event and take their contact information.
Step 3: Seek Legal Counsel that you Trust as Soon as Possible
As the vehicle owner, the onus falls on you to ensure you know what you’re covered for on your insurance policy in comparison with the policy of the driver, if any.
The insurance claim will follow the vehicle (not the driver) as the primary policy. Still, there may be a necessity for a secondary plan under the driver’s policy if he or she had one. Especially if multiple parties are involved, the claim can get complicated quickly, and you will want to seek consultation with a trusted lawyer right away.
Every accident is different, and often unique factors come into play that will require sophisticated legal analysis. If you aren’t sure what your next step is, an experienced lawyer will be able to guide you through the complexities involved.
Knowing your policy’s wording and inclusions are crucial, especially before allowing someone other than yourself to drive your vehicle.
Insurance companies play a tough game when it comes to paying your claim. They will want you to prove whether you permitted the driver to use your vehicle. They will make you jump through hoops. The feat can become complicated quickly, and if you do not know your rights and responsibilities, you may be taken advantage of by the insurance carriers.
If you require a lawyer, the law firm you choose should work with the facts and evidence to minimize any fault assigned to the driver. Some firms have more experience in complicated claims than others, so it is essential to do your due diligence when engaging legal counsel.
Travis Patterson is the Managing Partner at Patterson Law Group, specializing in personal injury accidents with offices in Fort Worth, Arlington, and San Antonio, Texas. He received his business and law degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Travis became a lawyer to help people who are hurting because of someone else’s mistake. He lives in Fort Worth with his wife Anna, three beautiful children (Hayes, Jack, and Hattie), and two golden doodle dogs (Graham and Graford). Check him out on Facebook and Instagram.