Lending your car to a friend or family member for a week or a weekend may seem like an uncomplicated decision. If your car is involved in an accident while being driven by someone else, however, you may be held liable for any property damage or injuries caused by the incident. In some cases, you may even face a Houston auto accident lawsuit as a result of your act of kindness. Learning more about legal liability in Texas can help you make the most prudent and sensible choices. Here are four facts to consider when deciding whether to lend your vehicle to a friend or family member.
Insurance Covers the Car, Not the Driver
Auto insurance policies are designed to cover a specific vehicle. Even if someone else is driving your car or truck, you may still be held legally and financially responsible for any accidents that involve your vehicle. In most cases, your insurance will assume primary responsibility; the driver’s own insurance policy would pay on a secondary basis for the costs of the accident. If the driver of your vehicle were to be completely uninsured, your insurance company would usually be responsible for paying the entire cost of an at-fault accident.
Family Members Living with You Are Usually Covered
Parents, grandparents, siblings and children who live together in the same household are usually covered as long as they are not specifically excluded on the auto insurance policy. This also applies to college students who live only a part of the year at home. As long as the home address is considered their primary residence, these young drivers can remain on your policy and can drive your vehicles. If they are not listed on the policy by name, however, they may be covered at a lower rate or with a higher deductible. Checking with your insurer can provide you with accurate information on the levels of coverage available for various members of your household.
Fault Is a Factor in Determining Who Pays
If the driver of your vehicle is not at fault for the accident, the insurance company of the guilty party is usually responsible for all damages and medical costs. Conversely, if your friend is entirely at fault for a car crash, your insurance company will generally pay for the medical costs and repair bills of the opposing party. In some cases, however, fault is not entirely on one side or the other. Under Texas law, if one party is found to be more than 50 percent at fault in an accident, they cannot collect any damages in court proceedings. However, the party deemed not to be at fault can only collect a percentage of damages equivalent to the fault assigned to the other driver in most Houston auto accident settlements.
If your vehicle is taken without your permission and the driver is involved in an accident, you typically will not be liable for any damages or injuries. However, you may have to pay a deductible to have your own vehicle repaired. As the owner, you may be liable for damages in the following cases:
- If your vehicle is defective and the authorized driver is involved in an accident as a result of those defects
- If the act of lending the vehicle was grossly negligent, as in cases in which the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or is known to be an unsafe driver
- If the person driving the vehicle with permission is an employee of the vehicle owner and is driving the vehicle in the course of work-related activities
Experienced Houston auto accident lawyers can provide expert advice and guidance regarding your financial liability in these accident cases.
Retaining the services of a qualified attorney should be your first step after an auto accident occurs. By taking steps to protect your legal rights and to pursue action against negligent or unqualified drivers, you can ensure the most positive outcome for your situation.