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If someone borrows your car and causes an accident, your insurance will cover them, but they’ll be on the hook for any damage that exceeds your coverage limits.
byAngele Doakes - Licensed Property & Casualty Broker
Updated June 21, 2021|5 min read
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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 cover damage to your car that the driver may have caused, assuming you gave them permission to drive. If the person who borrows your car causes damage or injury to another person or vehicle, your insurance will still cover them, but coverage for other drivers may be limited, and they’ll be on the hook for any damage that exceeds your coverage limits.
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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.
If you give someone permission to drive your car and they cause an accident, your car insurance will cover them
If the other driver has their own car insurance, it can kick in to cover any costs from the accident that exceed your coverage
Your premiums can still go up if someone else causes an accident in your vehicle, because the claim is on your insurance
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. To put it more simply, car insurance usually follows the car, not the driver .
Just like if you were the one driving, your collision coverage would pay for damage to your own car, and your liability coverage would cover damage the permissive driver did to someone else’s vehicle or person (although coverage for other drivers may be more limited than it is for people listed on your policy, so you should check the specifics with your insurer).
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. Most insurance companies require all drivers in a household to be listed on a policy. 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, including:
If a friend or family member borrows your car without your permission — and you can prove it, which is difficult — then they are liable for the damage they caused. However if your friend borrowed your car without your permission and doesn’t have their own car insurance policy, you may still have to file a claim with your insurance to cover the cost of any damage they caused.
Your insurance may not cover damage to your car by another driver 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 excluded from 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, because this may violate the terms of your policy.
If your teenage child has a license they should be added as a named insured on your policy, which means they’ll be covered if they get into an accident while driving your car. A teenage driver with a permit will generally be covered by your insurance while they’re learning to drive even if they’re not officially listed on your policy.
But a teenage driver without a permit or license would not be covered, so if you let your teenager drive your car and they get into an accident without a permit or license, your claim may be denied, leaving you on the hook for the damage they caused.
If your teenage child stole your car and crashed it, you can claim the damage on your insurance. But that may require filing a police report against your teenage child, and you may still be on the hook for the damage as their parent.
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. There are also some ways to lower your rates again if they’ve gone up after a claim, including:
Bundling your home and auto insurance
Taking advantage of available car insurance discounts
Changing your coverage limits or deductibles
Shopping around for new car insurance
You should also 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 the driver is licensed and you give them permission to drive your car, then yes, they can drive your car even if you are not in the car with them and they’ll be covered by your insurance.
If you gave the driver permission to drive, then your car insurance will cover the accident. But if you can prove they weren’t given permission to drive or if they’re specifically excluded from your policy, then your insurance won’t cover them and they’ll be liable for the damage they caused.
If someone steals your car and then crashes it, you’re not liable for any damage or injury they cause in your car. If you have comprehensive coverage as part of your policy, you’re covered for theft and you’ll be paid out the value of your totaled car.