When you are driving your own car and get into an accident, there are already plenty of questions to answer. What caused the accident? Who is at fault? How can you get compensation, or how much compensation do you owe? These are important questions, and a car accident lawyer in Texas can help you find answers.
However, what happens when someone else is driving your car and has an accident? Is your car’s driver responsible, or does the burden fall on you? Do not make assumptions that could lead you to make costly mistakes. Instead, consult with the Texas and New Mexico car accident lawyers from Farah Law and get the legal guidance you need.
First Things First: Who Was Driving Your Car?
Someone else was driving your car and had an accident. Who is responsible for damages? Generally speaking, the car owner’s insurance is on the hook. But “generally speaking” is not “always.”
There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. And to answer that question, you first have to address a few others. Partner with an experienced car accident lawyer in Texas to ask the right questions and get the answers you need.
Was the Driver a Family Member?
If a family member of the car owner was driving and is at fault for the accident, the car owner is responsible for paying damages. Texas, along with many other states, follows the Family Purpose Doctrine.
Under this doctrine, if the family member of a vehicle owner drives the vehicle and has an accident that causes damage to others, the vehicle owner is responsible whether or not the family member who took the car had permission. The Family Purpose Doctrine assumes the family’s vehicles are intended for family purposes.
Though the Family Purpose Doctrine seems clear, there may be room for argument. Sometimes, the reason why the family member was driving the car matters. For example, was the owner’s child using the car in service to the owner or for personal reasons?
Did the Driver Have Permission?
If the person driving the car is not a family member, the issue of permission must be determined before responsibility is assigned, and determining permission is not always a straightforward process. In most cases, however, if the driver had permission from the owner, the owner will be responsible for damages.
Three Ways to Give Permission
There are three ways a car owner can give another person permission to drive the owner's car. The owner can give verbal, written, or implied permission.
Verbal and written permission are the most clear-cut. If someone asks the car owner to borrow the car and the car owner says “yes,” or its equivalent, permission has been granted. Written permission is even more definitive as there is documented proof of it.
Implied permission is a bit more complicated, and, for the most part, is defined by the driver’s access to the car. For example, a car owner in a romantic relationship may give their partner a key to the car. Even if the car owner did not give written or verbal permission for the partner to take the car on the specific occasion of the accident, by giving the partner a key and continued access to the car, the owner has given implied permission.
The Driver Did Not Have Permission
When the driver is not a family member and took the car without permission, they have “stolen” the vehicle and are culpable for damages incurred while driving this stolen car. If that driver does not have insurance, the situation takes on additional headaches – serious ones – and you should not attempt to sort through them without the help of a skilled Texas car accident lawyer.
Most likely, you will have to file an uninsured motorist (UIM) claim with your own insurance company, and your insurance company will probably not make things easy for you. Like you, they will be very unhappy with having to pay damages for an accident caused by someone they are not responsible for covering. An attorney will handle all discussions and negotiations with your insurance company to ensure you are treated fairly.
Why Did the Driver Borrow Your Car?
Though intent is often not a factor, if the person driving your car used it for commercial purposes,
that person – and their own commercial auto insurance policy – must pay damages.
If the borrower took your car to run errands, needed your larger vehicle to move furniture, or take care of other personal needs, then your insurance applies. However, if the borrower took the vehicle for business-related use and is using it to make money, then their commercial insurance applies.
For example, if the borrower has a job making deliveries and gets in an on-the-job accident while borrowing your car for a shift, the commercial insurance policy should cover damages. Of course, if they do not have that insurance, there will be additional complications.
Identifying the Responsible Party Can Be Tricky
You will need help figuring out who is responsible for paying the damages resulting from an auto accident whether you are any of the following:
- the car owner far away from the scene of the accident
- the car borrower who caused an accident
- the car borrower who was hurt in an accident caused by someone else
- another car driver involved in an accident with a car driven by someone other than the owner
There are several important factors to consider, and often, these factors have layers of complexity. To protect yourself from unwarranted culpability and to get the compensation you deserve for your damages, connect with a knowledgeable car accident attorney from Farah Law.
We Get You Answers and Results
Farah Law has over four decades of combined experience helping clients work through the aftermath of a car accident. We know the laws of Texas and New Mexico, and we are here to serve the residents of these states. No matter how complicated your case, we will find the answers you need and work to get you the results you deserve. Reach out and contact us today for a free initial consultation. We are ready to get to work.