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What Happens When Someone Else Is Driving My Car and Gets In An Accident In California?

If someone recently caused an accident while driving your car, you may be thinking, “what happens if someone else is driving my can and gets in an accident?” Understanding car insurance can be confusing if you don’t know what to look for. Here are a few tips to help you understand it better.

Someone else crashed my car

Is car insurance attached to the vehicle or to the driver?

Car insurance, contrary to common opinion, usually follows the vehicle, not the driver. If you allow somebody else to take your car and they get into an accident, your insurance provider is liable to pay the claim, based on your policy’s coverage. The claim would be marked on your insurance record, which might have an impact on your future insurance costs.

However, when establishing whose insurance applies when somebody else uses your car and ends up in an accident, a variety of conditions may come into play.

What Is Limited Liability In California?

The users of the car who is responsible for the accident when using someone else’s vehicle does not leave the vehicle owner liable for 100% of the damages. Luckily, there are limitations to liability for the owner of the vehicle. An easy example of this is if the driver is acting for his or herself when the car crash occurs the owner’s liability is limited to $15,000 for injury or death to one person, or $30,000 if the auto accident causes injuries to more than one person. Additionally, if there was damage to someone’s property, liability is limited to five thousand dollars.

California Vehicle Code Section 17151


The liability of an owner, bailee of an owner, or personal representative of a decedent imposed by this chapter and not arising through the relationship of principal and agent or master and servant is limited to the amount of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) for the death of or injury to one person in any one accident and, subject to the limit as to one person, is limited to the amount of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) for the death of or injury to more than one person in any one accident and is limited to the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for damage to property of others in any one accident.


An owner, bailee of an owner, or personal representative of a decedent is not liable under this chapter for damages imposed for the sake of example and by way of punishing the operator of the vehicle. Nothing in this subdivision makes an owner, bailee, or personal representative immune from liability for damages imposed for the sake of example and by way of punishing him for his own wrongful conduct.

Although, Car Owners Can Still Be Found Negligent in The Accidents For Violating California Law

Its important to know that damage limitation is not applicable for the negligence of the owner vehicle. If a car owner lends his car to an unlicensed driver, this act is a violation of law, but can also be seen as independent negligence. Therefore, the liability limitation does not apply. Remember before lending a vehicle to another person, that the owner “is required only to make a reasonable effort or inquiry to determine whether the prospective driver possesses a valid driver’s license before allowing him or her to operate the owner’s vehicle.”

California Vehicle Code 14604

(a) No owner of a motor vehicle may knowingly allow another person to drive the vehicle upon a highway unless the owner determines that the person possesses a valid driver‘s license that authorizes the person to operate the vehicle. For the purposes of this section, an owner is required only to make a reasonable effort or inquiry to determine whether the prospective driver possesses a valid driver’s license before allowing him or her to operate the owner’s vehicle. An owner is not required to inquire of the department whether the prospective driver possesses a valid driver’s license.

(b) A rental company is deemed to be in compliance with subdivision (a) if the company rents the vehicle in accordance with Sections 14608 and 14609.

Does my insurance cover others?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, your car insurance is recognized as the primary insurance in several states if someone else crashes your vehicle. In other words, the coverage you selected on your policy would assist in covering the injuries or damages caused by the driver.

So, if the accident is caused by someone else driving your car, here’s how your policy’s coverage can help:

  • Auto liability insurance: it can assist cover the costs of another person’s medical expenses or a damaged vehicle as a consequence of the accident. Your liability coverage will not cover your friend’s medical expenses or repair costs for your own vehicle.
  • Collision coverage: Collision coverage may help you with paying for vehicle repairs. Keep in mind that you must first pay your deductible (the money you must pay before your insurance kicks in).
  • Medical expense coverage: it may help pay for their medical bills if the driver of your car is harmed in an accident that they caused.

While your car insurance can cover the costs if someone else who was driving your car got in an accident, it can only cover the damages in certain situations.

  • When the driver is included in your policy. This can include your spouse or children since they are generally included in your policy.
  • When you explicitly allowed someone to borrow or drive your car. This could include a driver you have hired or a friend, colleague, relative, or anyone else that you lent your car to.

However, your car insurance provider will not accept your insurance claims in certain situations.

  • When the person borrowed your car without your permission. But you will have to prove that you never gave them permission to take the car and it might be difficult to do. If you can prove that the driver was “non-permissive”, then the driver is liable to file a claim with their insurance provider.
  • When the person was specifically excluded from your insurance policy. It could be a friend, family member, or even a driver you have hired but not included in your policy due to a history of accidents or rash driving.
  • Drivers without a license. If the driver does not have a license, they are legally not allowed to drive. So, your policy won’t cover the accident caused by an unlicensed driver.
  • If the person is intoxicated. Your insurance provider cannot accept claims if the accident was caused when the driver was under influence.

Coverage varies with the policy

Never presume that your insurance will cover an accident and any resulting damage. Some policies, for example, do not even include relatives who live with you unless they are explicitly listed in your policy. Other policies may protect you, but only to a certain extent. Everyone’s policy is different, so do some research before assuming it will cover specific situations. Insurance normally follows the vehicle in California, but not all situations are the same.

If you want to lend your car to a close friend or family member or borrow one from somebody, go over both of your insurance plans first.

While the insurance generally follows the car, it may not be the case universally for every driver. As long as they are a permissive driver, the car owner’s company should be able to process the claim, but it’s not always the case. So, it’s crucial to go over the insurance policies before you lend your car or borrow one from a friend or relative.

Can my insurance company reject my claim?

The insurance company will usually accept your claim as long as the driver who caused the accident was “permissive”. The company will only reject claims in cases of “non-permissive” drivers, as mentioned above in the “Does my insurance cover others?” section. However, there may be other cases when the company is liable to reject your claims, and you must check about this with your provider or consult an expert.

Permissive vs. non-permissive use

You may have come across the terms “permissive” and “non-permissive” drivers a few times. Simply put, it refers to whether the person driving your car had permission to do so or not. your insurance claim can be accepted or rejected based on whether the driver had permission on not. So, let’s understand what each of these terms means in more detail:

Permissive use

Most vehicle insurance policies will cover drivers you’ve named on the policy or anybody you grant permission to drive your car. This implies that, in the case of an accident, your insurance will most likely cover another driver as long as they obtained your consent to drive your car. However, keep in mind that some states may give lesser coverage if you allow others to drive your vehicle. You can find out more about it here or consult an expert.

Non-permissive use

Your insurance company cannot cover accidents caused by anyone who did not have your permission to drive your car or who was under the influence or without a license. For example, your friend’s insurance may be recognized as the primary insurance if they borrow your car without your consent and get into an accident. If your friend does not have an insurance policy, you may need to submit a claim to your own provider to help pay for the costs. Similarly, if a thief steals your car, takes it for a ride and smashes into a vehicle, you are unlikely to be held accountable for the other vehicle’s damage and repairs. However, you may still need to file a claim with your insurance company to cover the costs of your vehicle’s repairs.

What happens if my teenage child was driving the car?

If your adolescent has a valid driver’s license, they should be added to your policy as a named policyholder, which means they’ll be protected if they get into an accident involving your car. Even if they aren’t explicitly included on your policy, a teen driver with a permit will usually be protected by your insurance while they are learning to drive.

However, a young driver who does not have a license is not covered, so if you let your child drive your car and they get into an accident without a valid license, your claim could be refused, leaving you responsible for the damage they did.

If your teenager steals your car and crashes it, you can file a claim with your insurance company. However, this may involve making a police complaint against your child, and you may still be responsible for the damages as their parent.

car crash after someone else crashed a car

What about the driver’s insurance?

If the accident led to extensive damage or injuries and the cost of the claim is higher than your insurance coverage, the driver’s insurance may kick in. However, their insurance will only pay the difference and will not be liable to cover the entire accident.

For example, the damages claimed amount to $20,000 but your insurance policy only covers you up to $15,000. In this case, the driver’s insurance company will have to cover the additional expenses of $5,000.

However, keep in mind that this is only possible if the driver has an insurance policy. If not, you will have to cover the additional costs on your own.

It’s also theoretically possible that your insurance company will claim compensation from the driver’s insurance, even if your policy limits are sufficient to cover a claim. Your insurance company may cover the full accident claim, but they may be able to recover part of the costs by contacting your friend’s insurance company.

Whether or not this occurs is likely to be determined by the terms and conditions of your policy, its coverage, and the laws of your state.

How does the accident affect my insurance rates?

Even if you aren’t driving, an accident might have an impact on your insurance costs. One accident will not automatically increase your premium. However, if you had another accident not long before someone else wrecked your car, your insurance company is likely to raise your rate, revoke your safe-driver discount, or possibly cancel your coverage.

At the end of the day, if your family members or close friends use your car regularly, the best thing you can do is consider adding them to your insurance. If your insurance company rejects your claim because of who was driving, you don’t want to be stuck with a massive bill. If your friends or relatives are driving your car, ensure they have a valid driver’s license and car insurance.

Steps you must take after someone crashes your car

It’s crucial to act quickly after a car accident involving your vehicle, even if you weren’t involved. After an accident leading to personal injury or vehicle damages, you have two years from the date of the accident to claim damages, and that time can fly by quickly.

Here are the steps you must take as soon as you find out that someone has caused an accident while driving your car.

Consult an accident lawyer

Contacting a car accident lawyer is the best first step. Because every accident is unique, you may require legal assistance depending on your circumstances.

If the driver of your car was not at fault, an expert attorney can ensure that you receive compensation for your losses. Even if you weren’t in the car at the time of the accident, the driver at fault should be held liable for the damages. There is also a chance that the person driving your car has been injured, and your vehicle has been damaged.

Insurance companies will always look for tactics to pay out less than the full amount of the damages. A California car accident attorney can assist you in protecting your rights and fighting for the compensation you deserve.

Understand your insurance policy

While an expert attorney can help your case, it’s also important that you understand your insurance policy thoroughly. If you don’t know what damages are covered under your policy or which persons are included and who is specifically excluded, check with your insurance provider. Your attorney can help you with this, too, however, it’s always a good idea to know your policy well.

Register the accident officially

Make sure you or the other driver calls the police as soon as possible following the accident. This is not only a legal necessity, but it will also serve as evidence for your insurance claim. It’s imperative to register the incident as you won’t be able to file an insurance claim without a police record of the accident and proof of damages and/or injuries sustained.

Take notes and photos if you were in the accident. Photograph the site of the accident, as well as any injuries and damage to property. If you were not involved in the accident, ensure that your vehicle’s driver records these details. You can also speak with any witnesses and obtain their names and contact information by asking them about what they observed.

For Any Questions. Contact Krasney Law For A Free Consultation!

Figuring out car insurance can be complicated and it’s always the best idea to consult with an expert car accident attorney as soon as an accident is reported. It’s also extremely important to check about their insurance policy before you lend your car to someone and understand how you may or may not be covered in case of an accident.