If you were driving someone else’s car when you were in an accident caused by a third party, you may make a claim for all your damages against that other driver. But you may also make a claim for immediate payment of your medical bills only, up to the coverage limit, under the medical payments coverage of the owner of the car you were driving. For damages to the car, the owner of the car must file a claim against the other driver.
Occasionally, the condition of the vehicle you are driving contributes to an accident. Brakes may fail, lights can go out, tires might be bald. If someone lends you a car, the owner is legally responsible to the extent the car’s unsafe condition contributes to an accident. Therefore, if a borrowed vehicle’s unsafe condition contributed to your accident, file a claim for damages not only against the driver of the other vehicle but also against the owner of the vehicle you were driving. If it is determined that the unsafe condition of the vehicle you were driving was the sole cause of the accident, a claim against the owner would be your only source of compensation.
If you are driving someone else’s car and have an accident with an uninsured driver, the uninsured motorist coverage of the owner of the car you were driving is usually the primary coverage, and your own uninsured motorist coverage is secondary. Notify both your own insurance company and the company that insures the car you were driving, but expect to negotiate a settlement only with the company insuring the car you were driving.
When the Other Driver Doesn't Own the Vehicle
If you have a car accident and the other driver doesn’t own the vehicle, the liability insurance of both the driver and the owner may be available to compensate you for your injuries. If either the driver or the owner is uninsured, the liability policy of the one who is insured will compensate you. If both are uninsured, you will have to turn to your own uninsured motorist coverage.
When More Than One Policy Covers Your Damages
More than one person’s liability policy may cover your damages. When that happens, one insurance policy will provide what is called “primary” coverage, while the other will provide “secondary” or “excess” coverage. The primary coverage will pay your damages, and the secondary policy will kick in only if the limits of the primary policy aren’t enough to cover all your damages. In those cases, the secondary coverage will pay to the extent necessary to make up the difference between the limits of the primary policy and your total damages.
You will not have to worry about figuring out which policy is primary and which is secondary. When more than one person is at fault in an accident, file a notice of claim with the insurance companies for everyone who was at fault. The insurance companies will then notify you which one will be primary and which one secondary.
Getting More Information and Legal Help
For more tips on figuring out insurance coverage after a car accident, and in-depth information on what to expect at every step in your case, get How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo). And if you’re thinking about filing a lawsuit after a car accident, you may want to consider talking with a personal injury attorney to make sure that all your legal bases are covered and your rights are protected.