What to Do When Someone Else Has an Accident in Your Car in Alpharetta

May 17, 2024

When you hand over your car keys to someone, you’re trusting them with more than just your vehicle. You’re hoping that they’ll drive responsibly and return with the car in the same condition it was in when you last saw it. While this is what usually happens, the question still arises: What happens if someone else crashes your car in Alpharetta?

This question isn’t just about vehicle damage— it’s about understanding the legal and insurance ramifications that follow. If someone else is involved in an auto accident while driving your car, the implications can be significant for both you as the owner and the person behind the wheel. It’s essential to know how your insurance works, what “permissive use” means, and how liability is assessed in such situations. 

The initial shock of learning that your vehicle has been in an accident is unsettling, but knowing the steps to follow can alleviate some of the stress involved. For those looking for professional guidance, Horst Shewmaker can provide valuable advice tailored to your situation.

Understanding Permissive Use

In auto insurance terms, “permissive use” refers to a situation where the vehicle owner allows another person to drive their car. This concept is fundamental in determining how insurance coverage applies when someone other than the owner is operating the vehicle. When you allow someone to use your vehicle, you are also extending the protections of your insurance policy to that individual. 

In the event of a personal injury claim, your policy is the first to be called upon. This can lead to increased premiums or out-of-pocket costs, especially if the claim surpasses your policy limits. The driver’s personal insurance potentially serves as a secondary layer of coverage, should costs exceed what your policy can handle.

When considering the question “If someone wrecks my car, who is liable?” it becomes clear that while the insurance coverage may primarily be your responsibility as the owner, both legal and financial liabilities can still affect the driver. It’s important for both parties to clearly understand the terms of permissive use and prepare accordingly before handing over the keys.

Georgia’s Insurance Regulations Explained

Georgia requires vehicle owners to carry liability insurance with minimum limits of $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 for bodily injury per automobile accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident. These are the baseline amounts required to lawfully operate a vehicle, but many drivers opt for additional coverage to better protect themselves against potential financial losses.

It is important to note that the coverage is primarily associated with the car itself, rather than the individual driving it. This is why your insurance policy will initially be used to address any claims if you permit someone else to drive your car and they are involved in an accident. 

The focus on the vehicle rather than the driver provides an easy answer to the question “What happens if someone else crashes your car?” However, it also means that vehicle owners must be cautious about whom they allow to drive their car, as any claims made as a result of an accident could increase their future insurance premiums.

Determining Liability and Coverage

When an accident occurs, several types of insurance coverage may come into play, depending on the specifics of the incident and the insurance policy. The most relevant types are liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage. 

Liability insurance is essential (and legally required) as it covers damages to other vehicles and injuries to other people when you or the permitted driver are at fault. Collision coverage steps in to cover damages to your own vehicle from the crash, regardless of who is at fault. Lastly, comprehensive coverage is designed to handle damages from non-collision-related incidents such as theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. Understanding the distinctions between these coverages is crucial, especially when another driver is involved in an accident with your vehicle.

When determining liability, especially in cases like ‘my son was driving my car and had an accident’, it’s important to understand how liability is assessed if someone else is driving your vehicle. As stated earlier, insurance policies in Georgia follow the vehicle, which means the car owner’s insurance is primarily responsible for any damages. If the driver is someone who lives in your household, such as a son or daughter, they are typically already included in your auto insurance policy- some insurance carriers even make this a requirement.

The Role of Collision and Comprehensive Coverage

Collision coverage deals specifically with damages incurred to your vehicle in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. For instance, if you allow a friend or family member to use your vehicle and they are involved in a crash, your collision coverage will be responsible for covering the repairs to your vehicle, minus any deductible. This coverage is especially important because it ensures that your vehicle can be repaired or replaced even if the accident was caused by the person you allowed to drive your car. 

Unlike collision coverage, comprehensive coverage applies to scenarios that do not involve a collision with another vehicle. This includes a wide array of situations such as theft, vandalism, fire, natural disasters (like flood or hail), and other events beyond your control. Comprehensive coverage is instrumental when dealing with unexpected incidents that can happen to a parked or stored vehicle, as well as while driving under conditions that lead to damage from non-collision events.

Both collision and comprehensive coverages protect your vehicle not just from accidents but from a variety of risks that can lead to financial losses. This dual-layered protection is particularly beneficial in managing the risks associated with permissive use, as it covers a wide range of potential incidents.

Steps to Take After an Accident Involving Your Car

If an accident occurs involving your vehicle, you want to make sure that all legal and insurance-related issues are properly addressed. Here’s a practical checklist of steps you should follow:

  • Check for Injuries: The first priority is to ensure that all parties involved in the accident are safe. Check for any injuries and call emergency services if medical attention is needed.
  • Call the Police: It’s important to have a police report for insurance purposes and to establish the details of the accident. Be sure to ask the police officer for a copy.
  • Document the Accident Scene: Take photographs of all vehicles involved, as well as any visible damage. This will be important evidence for your insurance claim.
  • Exchange Information: Collect the names, contact details, insurance information, and vehicle details of all drivers involved. If there are witnesses, get their contact information as well.

Inform your insurer about the accident as soon as possible. Provide them with all the relevant details and any evidence you have collected, such as the police report, photos of the scene, witness statements, and any other documents that your insurance company requests. Once your claim is approved, arrange for your vehicle to be repaired. Your insurance company may recommend a repair shop, or you may choose one yourself, depending on your policy.

How to Protect Yourself as a Car Owner

As a car owner, it’s important to take proactive steps to minimize risks when allowing others to drive your vehicle. Here are some practical tips to help protect your interests and maintain control over who uses your car:

  • Confirm that the person you’re considering allowing to drive your vehicle has a valid driver’s license and a good driving record. 
  • Be specific about when and for what purposes your car can be used. For instance, you might allow a friend to borrow your car for errands but not for a road trip. Setting these boundaries can help reduce wear and tear and the risk of accidents.
  • Limit how often you lend your car to keep your risk at a manageable level.
  • Communicate your expectations regarding the care and use of your vehicle. Make sure the driver understands they should avoid risky behaviors such as speeding or using a mobile phone while driving.

You should also make it a habit to review your insurance policy at least once a year or after any significant life event. This ensures you understand what your policy covers and whether it meets your current needs. It’s also important to understand the specifics of what your insurance covers and any exclusions that may affect claims. For example, some policies may not cover other drivers unless they are explicitly named.

If you find that your current policy does not adequately cover your needs—especially considering who might be driving your car—consider adjusting your coverage. This might mean increasing liability limits or adding drivers to your policy. If you’re unsure about any aspect of your coverage, a discussion with your insurance agent can clarify coverage details and help you make informed decisions about potential changes.

Questions? Speak to an Alpharetta Car Accident Lawyer 

Dealing with an accident involving your vehicle can be hard, especially when someone else was driving. Understanding your insurance coverage, the implications of permissive use, and the responsibilities involved are crucial for managing these situations effectively. By taking proactive steps to review your insurance policies and set clear boundaries for permitted drivers, you can mitigate potential risks and financial liabilities.

However, even with all the right precautions in place, accidents can still happen. Should you find yourself in such a situation, especially as an injured passenger, seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney is often the next best step. At Horst Shewmaker, we can answer your questions, help you address any concerns, and work with you to achieve a favorable resolution. To learn more or schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer, call 404-400-1175 or contact us online today.

Notes: Our team gathers information about accidents in Georgia from various external sources, including news reports, police reports, social media, and eyewitness accounts. The details of this specific incident have not been independently verified by our staff. If you find any inaccuracies in our post, please get in touch with Horst Shewmaker, LLC, and we will promptly correct or remove the content as needed.

Disclaimer: This post is not a business solicitation. It’s important to note that the information provided does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship. Legal outcomes vary depending on specific circumstances. For personalized legal assistance, please contact Horst Shewmaker, LLC directly. The featured image in this post is not from the actual accident scene.