Will your insurance still cover an accident when someone else is driving?
Your auto insurance is there to protect you from financial liability in case of a car accident — but what if the accident happens when you’re not driving your own car?
If someone else causes an accident while driving your vehicle, either with you in it or not, your car insurance will likely still cover damage to your car that the driver may have caused, assuming you gave them permission to drive. But if the other driver causes damage or injury to another person or vehicle, whoever borrowed your car may be on the hook too.
That said, in auto insurance, as in life, there are always exceptions, so here’s how to know if your insurance will kick in if someone else has an accident in your vehicle.
Your insurance will only cover an accident that someone else caused in your car if that person was already included on your insurance policy, or if you gave them explicit permission to drive. So what does that actually mean?
In most cases, if you give permission to someone else to drive your car (making them a permissive driver) and they cause an accident, your insurance will cover the costs. That’s because yours will be the primary insurance, whether or not you were in the car with them at the time.
Just like if you were the one driving, your collision coverage would pay for damages to your own car, and your liability coverage would cover damage the permissive driver did to someone else’s vehicle or person.
However, if the damage to others that the permissive driver caused in the accident exceeds your limits, the permissive driver may have to involve their own auto insurance provider, and their liability insurance may help cover the costs. If the person who was driving your car doesn’t have their own insurance, they may be on the hook financially for damages to the other party.
Unless your spouse or any other household members are specifically excluded from your policy, they’re probably already on it with you. And anyone named on your policy gets all the same coverage you do when you’re driving, so if your spouse or someone else who shares the policy with you causes an accident, your insurance will cover it.
There are some situations where your insurance just won’t cover the damage to your car caused when someone else was driving it, and it usually has to do with
If a friend or family member borrows your car without your permission — and you can prove it, which is difficult — then then they are liable for the damage they caused.
One situation in which your insurance may not cover damage to your car caused when someone else was driving it is if that person was specifically excluded from your insurance policy. An excluded driver is someone, maybe an inexperienced or high-risk family member, who you’ve intentionally left off of your auto insurance policy, usually because including them would raise your rates.
If an excluded driver borrows your car and then gets into an accident, your insurance won’t cover the damage, even if you gave the driver permission to drive that time.
Your insurance likely won’t cover the damage caused to your car if you lend it to someone who gets into an accident while driving under the influence, or if you lend your car to someone who doesn’t have a valid driver’s license.
The short answer is yes, probably. Since your car insurance works much the same way when you lend it to someone and when you’re driving it yourself, your premiums will go up if someone else causes an accident in your vehicle, just like they would if you caused an accident.
If you’re particularly worried about accidents, you can look into adding accident forgiveness to your policy. Accident forgiveness is a feature that some providers offer that can help keep your rates from going up after an accident. It’s usually offered as an add-on to your normal plan, sometimes only to drivers who’ve had a certain number of years of accident-free driving.
But keep in mind that, depending on your policy and where you live, people driving your car with your permission might have reduced coverage while driving your car. A Policygenius expert can help you find insurance options that might make more sense for you if you anticipate lending out your car frequently.
If someone steals your car and then crashes it, you’re not liable for any damage or injury they cause in your car, and your insurance will likely cover the damage to your vehicle. Learn more about insurance coverage when your car is stolen.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius in New York City, and an expert in auto insurance. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic, writing about news and culture. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.