Who pays for damages when the driver doesn’t own the car?

It’s common for a person to allow a friend or family member to use his car, so many people drive a vehicle they don’t own. If a driver who doesn’t own the car is involved in an accident, it can be confusing to determine whose insurance company is responsible for covering the damages. If you're in an accident caused by someone driving a borrowed vehicle, it’s important to understand how to file a claim for liability.

Filing a Claim Through the Driver's Policy

If the driver has his own insurance policy, this is often the best course of action for seeking reimbursement for your accident-related expenses. Liability coverage generally follows the driver regardless of what vehicle he or she is operating. However, this coverage only extends to occasional use of another person's vehicle. For example, if you're hit by a driver who was borrowing a friend's car for the day because his was in the shop, you should be able to file a claim with the driver's policy.

Filing a Claim Through the Vehicle Owner's Policy

If the driver doesn't own his own vehicle, you'll need to file through the owner's policy. A car insurance policy typically covers the driver, his or her spouse, and any teen children old enough to drive. However, policyholders have the option of listing other insured drivers on the policy if they choose to do so. For example, someone might choose to list a babysitter as an insured driver if she would regularly be using the car to pick up the child from school. Additionally, roommates often list each other as insured drivers.

If the driver is listed on the policy, the claim should be processed smoothly. Unfortunately, complications can result if the driver isn't listed on the policy. Many insurance companies offer coverage for accidents caused by a driver who is not listed on the policy, as long as he is fully licensed and has permission to be using the vehicle. However, some policies restrict the benefits available in this case.

Filing a Claim Through Your Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Underinsured/uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is not required under Louisiana law, but many drivers do opt to include this coverage in their policy. If you discover that the driver of the vehicle has no insurance and is excluded from coverage under the owner's policy, filing a claim under your own UM coverage would be an option to consider. This coverage can also be utilized if the available insurance benefits won't cover your damages.

Special Rules for Accidents Involving Rental Cars

When an auto accident involves someone driving a rental car, the rules are a little different. You can seek reimbursement for damages through the driver's liability coverage and/or any additional rental car insurance. However, you can't file a claim against the rental car company directly. Federal law expressly protects rental car services from financial liability relating to accidents caused by customers.

Protecting Your Rights

After the accident, your first priority should be attending to your injuries. Once you've received the necessary medical care, you should ask for the following information to help process your claim:

  • The driver's name and contact information
  • The driver's insurance information, if he has car insurance
  • The name and contact information for the vehicle's owner
  • The owner's insurance information

Since accidents involving vehicles driven by someone other than the registered owner can involve complex liability issues, retaining the services of an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to protect your rights. Your attorney can gather the necessary information to determine liability and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. This leaves you free to focus on recovering from your injuries and moving forward with your life.

If you believe you were partially at fault for the accident, your attorney can help negotiate a lower percentage of fault. Louisiana law allows partially at-fault drivers to receive compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, their settlement is reduced by their percentage of fault. Since there is no set formula for determining fault, having someone to advocate for your interests can often result in thousands of dollars in additional compensation.

Louisiana has a one year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. If you don't file your claim within this time, you lose your right to compensation regardless of the circumstances surrounding the accident. To learn more, please contact the experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.