You’re driving along when another driver hits you. You exchange information. Then you learn that the person who hit you didn’t own the car. What should you do?
Many people borrow or share cars to go to work, transport children, or run errands. This article will provide helpful information about what to do if the person who hit you didn’t own the car.
Car Sharing: A Common Occurrence
If you think that being hit by a borrowed vehicle is a rare occurrence, think again. About 30 percent of American car owners have loaned their car to a friend – or would be willing to do so. So, being hit by someone who doesn’t own the car is a reasonable concern.
There isn’t much research about whether those who borrow vehicles from friends or family are more or less reckless behind the wheel. But we do know being unfamiliar with a car increases the risk of a crash. We also know that rental car drivers are more likely to get into accidents than those driving their own cars. So, drivers of borrowed cars could be more likely to cause accidents.
Who’s Responsible if the Person Who Hit You Didn’t Own the Car?
If you’re hit by a non-owner driver – and the fault for the accident lies with that person – there’s good news. In Alabama, the insurance generally follows the car, not the driver. This means that the owner’s car insurance – including bodily injury liability, collision coverage, and comprehensive coverage – follows the car no matter who’s driving.
So, if the driver who hit you used a borrowed car, the first step is to file a claim against the car owner’s policy. If the owner’s policy doesn’t completely cover your damages, you can file against the driver’s policy or use your uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage to make up the difference.
But here’s the bad news: In Alabama, coverages such as PIP (personal injury protection) and MedPay (medical payments) follow the driver, not the owner.
Worse, the owner’s insurance may not cover every borrower. Insurance policies will not cover a driver who:
Resides in the owner’s household. A teen daughter who lives at home takes her parents’ car. The insurance company will not pay because she should be listed on her parent’s policy.
Uses the car regularly. The family babysitter uses the owner’s car every day to transport the kids. While insurance companies are okay with allowing non-owners to occasionally use a car, when a person uses a car weekly or daily, the insurance company expects the owner to include that person on the policy.
Took the car without permission. Insurance companies will not hold an owner responsible for the actions of a person who took the car without the owner’s permission.
As you can see, the issue of legal responsibility is complicated.
Other Things to Consider about Drivers of Borrowed Cars
Beyond insurance, Alabama has other doctrines that personal injury lawyers use when the person who hit you didn’t own the car.
First, the doctrine of negligent entrustment could be a great help. Negligent entrustment allows you to sue the person who gave the negligent driver the keys. To win, you’ll have to show that the car owner:
– entrusted the vehicle to the borrower;
– entrusted the vehicle to a borrower who was incompetent; and
– knew that the borrower was incompetent.
For example, if the owner let someone borrow their car when they knew that that person was intoxicated or knew that the person was a reckless driver, you could pursue an insurance claim and a negligent entrustment claim.
Second, if the driver who hit you was a teen, Alabama law gives you an additional option. The Alabama Code holds parents responsible for property damage caused by a person under 18. However, the law only applies if the youth’s actions were “intentional, willful, or malicious;” most of the time, in a car accident, this will not be the case. But if it is, this law can help. You can recover up to $1000 under this law in addition to your insurance claim.
What to do if You are Hit by a Borrowed Car
If you are hit by a borrowed vehicle, you should follow the same steps that you would do in any normal accident. However, in addition to the standard evidence – photographs of the scene, names of witnesses, etc. – at the crash scene, be careful to note the name of the owner as well as the name of the driver. (If the driver knows the owner’s insurer information, be sure to get that information as well.) Collecting information as soon as you are able will help your personal injury attorney build and improve your case. Your injury lawyers will know which doctrines are best for your case.
Have You Been in a Car Accident in Alabama?
Hopefully, this article has helped you learn more about what to do if the person who hit you didn’t own the car. If you have been in any type of accident – trucking accident, pedestrian accident, motorcycle accident – contact Collins Law, LLC today. Our law firm can help. Our team of Alabama personal injury attorneys serves clients in Birmingham, Huntsville, and many other places in Alabama. Call (205) 881-0403 or click here to schedule a free consultation.