Loaning your vehicle to a friend is a nice gesture if they are in a crunch. However, it is only natural to wonder what would happen if they had (or caused) an accident while driving it. Your biggest concern (beyond whether your car and friend are okay) is if you will be considered liable.
At Jonathan Perkins Injury Attorneys, we answer complicated questions like this daily. Not only can we provide you with answers, but we can advise you of your legal options.
Connecticut Is an At-Fault State
You need to understand Connecticut law after an accident, even one caused by your friend. The state follows the at-fault system. This means whoever caused the accident is liable for all damages. Put simply, Connecticut is a “tort” state.
Damages the at-fault driver must cover include property damage, medical costs, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Since it is a fault state, the negligent driver is usually liable for any losses caused by the accident. This includes the victim’s injuries.
If your friend did not cause the accident, your insurance company will not have to pay for damages. Reviewing your policy and coverage limits before lending your vehicle to anyone is a good idea. This will ensure you understand your responsibilities if an accident occurs.
When any car accident occurs, the first step is to determine liability. The insurance company for the at-fault party will pay for damages.
Some of the factors considered when determining liability in Connecticut car accidents include:
Did the Driver Have Your Permission
Connecticut law states your insurance must provide liability coverage if an accident occurs when a family member is driving your vehicle. This is called the “family car doctrine.” For friends, your insurance will likely provide primary coverage. This is because the law presumes you gave the person permission.
However, if you did not consent to someone to drive it, you may not be liable for damages. This is also the case if someone steals your vehicle and gets in an accident.
Impaired or Unlicensed Drivers
Did you allow someone without a license to drive your vehicle? Or someone who was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs? You may be held responsible for their injuries if you knowingly did this and the person caused an accident.
How to Establish Negligence in Connecticut Car Accidents
If the other driver (not your friend) is negligent in the accident, they are liable for any losses. However, it is necessary to show the other driver was negligent.
All drivers have a duty of care to others on the road. This means obeying traffic laws and not operating a vehicle recklessly or negligently. If the other driver did not adhere to this obligation, they are at fault. For example, if the driver was distracted, tired, or intoxicated, they did not uphold their duty of care and are, therefore, at fault for the accident.
While your friend may tell you what happened, this is not enough to prove negligence. You must obtain police reports, photos, witness testimony, and other tangible evidence to show the other driver was at fault. Proving fault in car accidents can be tricky, but a Connecticut personal injury lawyer can help.
Steps to Take After a Friend Crashes Your Car
It can be jarring if you are a passenger in the vehicle when your friend hits another car. However, staying calm and taking the proper steps to protect yourself is essential.
Move the vehicles to a safe location and contact the police. Connecticut law requires you to contact the police to report an accident if it causes damages of over $1,000, an injury, or a fatality.
After contacting the police, gather information from the other people involved in the accident. This includes the other driver’s name, contact details, collision coverage policy, and a copy of their driver’s license. If anyone saw the accident and is still at the scene, get their name and contact information.
It is also necessary to report the accident to your insurance provider.
Will You Get Sued if Your Friend Caused the Accident?
If your friend’s accident caused serious injuries or property damage, you may wonder if you will face legal repercussions. For example, can an injured driver sue you?
Since you own the vehicle that caused the accident, it is a possibility you can be sued. The other driver can sue you based on negligent entrustment. If successful, they can receive compensation from your collision insurance policy.
What if Damages Are More Than Your Auto Insurance Limits?
The damages may exceed your insurance policy coverage limits for more serious accidents. If the driver does not have insurance to cover the balance, you may be ordered to pay with your own money.
If you have an uninsured/underinsured policy, you can use this to make up the difference.
If you let a friend drive your vehicle and they cause an accident, you may face serious legal consequences.
Liability and Responsibility
You could be partially liable for the damages and injuries sustained in the crash if your friend had permission to drive your vehicle when the accident occurred. While the driver is primarily responsible, Connecticut’s insurance laws often require the car owner’s insurance to step in. Make sure you understand your policy and the extent of your potential liability before allowing friends to drive your car.
Criminal Charges and Penalties
Your friend could face criminal charges depending on the severity of the accident. This could range from minor traffic violations to more severe charges like reckless driving or DUI. Although you weren’t driving, these charges could involve your vehicle being impounded, which may indirectly affect you.
Potential Impact on Your Driving Record
While your driving record might not be directly impacted, insurance claims from the accident can increase your premiums. Increased insurance premiums may stick around for a few years after the accident.
Besides legal consequences, there are also potential financial penalties.
Impact on Insurance Premiums
As mentioned above, you may have to pay more for insurance on your car. Your current insurer may stop covering you, which means finding a new one. After an accident, this may be harder than you think.
Beyond insurance coverage, you may face out-of-pocket expenses for things not covered by your policy. This could include medical bills or property damages that exceed your insurance limit. Sometimes, you might need to go to court to reclaim these costs.
Hidden Costs: Rental Cars, Legal Fees, etc.
If your car is badly damaged, you might need to rent a car while yours is being repaired. Additionally, if the accident leads to a legal dispute, you may incur legal fees you hadn’t anticipated. These costs can add up quickly and should be factored into your overall financial planning following an accident involving your vehicle.
Protecting Your Rights After Car Accidents in Connecticut
While being a good friend is commendable, it is wise to consider the potential outcome of the situation if an accident occurs while your friend is driving. There are many situations where you may be held liable for damages.
If the other driver in the accident is at fault, you and your friend may be owed compensation. To know your legal rights and options, contact a car accident attorney. At Jonathan Perkins Injury Lawyers, our injury lawyers offer advice, guidance, and legal representation for car accident victims. The first step is to contact our office to schedule a free consultation.