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Clearly you would not have lent your car out if you knew the person borrowing it was going to get into an accident. And, clearly, you weren't the one behind the wheel. So other than making sure all the damage gets fixed, the wreck really isn't your problem, right?
Not so fast, my friend. There are some circumstances where you could be liable for another person's accident in your car. Here's what you need to know.
First, there's insurance. So you and the other drivers may be covered in the case of an accident. If the accident was caused by a person other than the one driving your car, you may not have to worry about liability or insurance issues. That said, if the person driving your car causes the accident, your insurance company may not cover the damage, depending on the type of car insurance coverage you have.
Second, there's personal liability. Some drivers have insurance policies that cover them no matter what car they're driving, and may kick in if they get into an accident in your car. Or, the person driving your car may volunteer to cover any and all costs relating to the accident, which would be the responsible thing to do.
If none of the above applies, you could get sued for another driver's accident. There is a legal concept called "vicarious liability" that can hold some people legally liable for another's actions. This can apply in situations involving car accidents if the car owner knew or should have known that the person driving their car was an unlicensed or unsafe driver or that the car had manufacturing or other defects.
In some states, car owner liability is written right into the law. In California, for example, an "owner of a motor vehicle is liable and responsible for death or injury to person or property resulting from a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the operation of the motor vehicle." Other states have "owner's liability" statutes, although in some cases the liability is capped at a certain dollar amount, depending on the damages involved.
If someone else gets into a wreck in your car, you might want to check with a local attorney to determine your legal liability.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.