If you have been involved in an accident and the driver of the other vehicle doesn’t own the car, you don’t have to worry. While many people assume that the driver of the vehicle is automatically responsible, that is not necessarily the case.
Sometimes court determines who is responsible for damages, the owner of the vehicle or the person who is driving it. When someone buys a car, he or she must insure it.
When someone insures his or her car, the general rule is that the insurance covers everyone who lives in the household unless they are excluded on the policy. Usually, those who live outside the household are not included on the policy, but there is a permissive use rule that says the owner gives permission to the driver to operate the vehicle.
When that occurs, the driver is covered by the insurance of the owner. The driver’s insurance policy is secondary.
If you have been involved in a crash in which the owner of the car was not the driver, you still file a personal injury claim against the owner’s insurance policy. The owner’s insurance policy is liable for paying:
- Your medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Any wages that you lose because of your injuries from the crash
The insurance company might not offer you what you deserve, so consult with a personal injury attorney.
Proving Who is At Fault
While there are many times it can be easily determined who is at fault in a crash, there are some accidents that are more complicated. As an example, if a driver runs a stop sign and crashes into another car, it is obvious he is at fault for the crash. Or, if a driver is texting and not paying attention to the road and hits another car in rear, he is at fault for the accident.
If it is a situation where determining the at fault driver is more complicated, all the evidence must be considered. In those instances, it can be much more challenging to determine the driver who is at fault.
Providing detailed medical records, police reports, evidence gathered from the crash scene, photographs of injuries and damage, and detailed accounts of the accident from you and any witnesses can be helpful.
Evidence You Need if You Have Been Hit by a Driver Who is Not the Owner
As you are suing the owner of the vehicle, not the driver, all evidence you collect ultimately will end up submitted with your demand letter to the owner’s insurer. All the evidence you need is the standard evidence needed for any vehicle accident.
At the crash scene, if you are able to do so, collect eye witness contact details, such as their names, email addresses and phone numbers. If you have a voice recorder function on your cell phone or tablet, then you may also be able to record an audio statement from each of the eye witnesses if they consent to this.
Also, at the crash scene, you should take photos of the vehicles involved, e.g. where they ended up after the collision, any damage visible, injuries that you and any other passengers had and tire marks on the road.
If you don’t have a camera function, you may be able to draw a diagram showing the positions of the two or more vehicles, a brief summary of what happened and damage and injuries sustained.
Take the contact details of the driver and the owner of the vehicle as well as the license and registration details. If the driver knows who the owner’s insurer is, take a note of that, too.
If there are injuries, police will normally attend and they will compile a police report of their own. Make sure you get a copy of this report as it will be needed when you submit you claim.
Other standard evidence you will need to submit to the owner’s insurer includes the following:
- Evidence of damage from your car repair yard;
- Evidence of cost of towing the car away if this is what was necessary;
- Evidence of the injuries you sustained from your doctor;
- Cost of treatment, including doctor’s fees, hospital stay and any treatment needed;
- Evidence from your employer of lost wages because of your injuries.
Rental Cars and Ride sharing. Who do I sue?
Rental cars and ride sharing services are some common scenarios where the driver might not be the owner of the car. There is a gray area here, but in general you can assume that the insurance policy would follow the driver and not the car. One of the issues that insurance companies are facing is how to insure individuals in a rental economy.
Rental car companies in this situation will not be liable as there is a federal law that protects them from being held liable. However there are a couple of different insurance policies to look out for if you are in an accident. One policy is a non-owner’s policy. If the person that hit you is a frequent renter, this is something that they might be having. In addition, rental car companies offer additional optional insurance policies that a driver might have.
If you are physically able to, at the scene of the accident make sure that you get the contact information of the other driver. It will also help your case if you are able to provide your attorney with the insurance policy that the other driver was driving under.
If the Driver is Working for an Employer and the Employer Owns the Vehicle
Liability for the accident will depend on whether the employee was working at the time of the crash. If not, but the vehicle still belonged to the employer, the liability will be with the driver, assuming s/he was at fault.
If the driver was at work at the time, then the liability will be with the employer. If you can’t work out whether the driver or the employer was liable, it is best to submit the demand letter with both the driver’s insurer and the employer’s and let them sort out who is responsible for dealing with your claim.
There is another scenario when the driver is using the employer’s vehicle but is not responsible for its maintenance. If the accident occurred because of a vehicle fault, or a faulty part, then liability will be first with the employer, even if the driver was using it for private purposes.
Some of these options become complex when there are multiple parties to sue. It is advisable to discuss your legal options with your personal injury attorney in these circumstances.
The Role of a Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury will work to protect your rights and ensure that you are treated fairly. Your attorney will review the accident details and evidence while maintaining an accurate and ongoing list of medical costs, lost wages, recovery time, follow-up medical care and any prescriptions, therapy, or rehabilitation.
Your personal injury attorney will also consider if you are going to have long-term effects resulting from the crash so they can be included in the claim.
If you have been injured in a crash where the driver wasn’t the owner of the vehicle, schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer right away so you can make sure you are treated fairly and your rights remain protected during the claims process.