The State of Florida is a no-fault state, which means that in the event of a car accident, each driver is required to file a claim with their separate insurance companies, regardless of who is at fault. But what happens if someone else was driving your car at the time, and they had an accident? Who would be liable for any damages or personal injuries that were caused by the car accident?
The answer to these questions depends on several factors, as well as the type of insurance coverage you currently have. If this is something that is causing you concern and anxiety right now, then a lawyer from our team will be able to help you. Attorneys from The Law Place have helped many clients in similar circumstances. It is a part of our expertise. As soon as you appoint us, we will assign a skilled car accident lawyer to your case. If the accident was not the fault of the friend or loved one who was driving your car, your lawyer will be able to seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance provider. You can count on us to help you navigate the entire process effortlessly.
Contact our offices today at (941) 444-4444 to schedule a free consultation, and a lawyer from our team will take you through this situation every step of the way.
Permissive and Non-Permissive Use
Depending on whether you gave someone else permission to drive your car, or you didn’t give them permission, this would be called “permissive” or “non-permissive” use. Most large car insurance providers offer permissive use car insurance whilst some smaller companies do not. Again, it is important to review your policy details. Permissive use auto insurance allows occasional use of a vehicle, usually less than 12 times per year, by a driver who does not live at the same address as the policyholder. This could be a relative, a friend, or a neighbor. It would not apply to an immediate family member who lives with you.
- Permissive use –Permissive use car insurance applies to anyone who has permission to drive your car. If this person gets into an accident, they should get all of the same protections you would get from your car insurance policy. In other words, your car insurance policy should apply to your car and to anyone driving it. Permission can be verbal, and there is no need for it to be written down anywhere.
- Non-permissive use – This is when a friend or family member drives your car without your permission. If they get into a car crash, it is unlikely that you will be responsible for third-party damages. However, you may be liable for the damages to your car. In the case of theft, where your vehicle is stolen, and the person driving your car is involved in a collision, you would not be responsible for damages to the other vehicle, but you might have to file a claim with your insurer to cover repairs to your vehicle.
It’s worth noting that unless you explicitly refuse to allow someone else to drive your car, most insurance companies will assume permission was granted. It can be a challenge to prove otherwise.
Two Important Exceptions to Permissive Use Coverage
There are two exceptions to permissive use that you should be aware of:
- Exception one – Permissive use may not cover business uses of your car unless you have included this within your policy. However, if your policy does not cover business uses by permissive users, you will have no coverage if the driver you allowed the use of your car gets into an accident while making a business-related journey.
- Exception two – Permissive use coverage does not apply to unlicensed or inexperienced drivers. If you were not aware that the person you loaned your car to was an unlicensed or inexperienced driver and they got into a car accident, your insurance company might try to deny coverage.
Steps to Take Immediately After an Accident
The first thing to do immediately before a car crash is to make sure that either you or the driver of your car informs the police. This is a legal requirement, and it will also be useful when making your insurance claim. If a police officer is present at the accident scene, they will prepare a report. In the absence of a law enforcement officer, you must record the accident in as much detail as possible. This is because you will remember more about the car accident at this stage rather than later on. If you were not present at the accident, request that the friend, acquaintance, or loved one who was driving your car takes detailed notes and photographs. Get them to document the following:
- The scene of the incident.
- The exact time.
- The weather conditions.
- Names and contact details of any witnesses.
- Statements from witnesses.
- Take photographs of any injuries or property damage.
The driver of your car should seek medical treatment as soon as possible following a car accident. This will provide evidence that any personal injury and medical bills are directly linked to the car accident.
Know Your Insurance Policy
Now that the accident has been filed and recorded, it is time to move on to your auto insurance policy. You need to know whether you have enough coverage for any damage or personal injury incurred. The way to know for certain is by examining your insurance policy. This is why it is important to understand all the terms contained within your insurance documents.
It is also worth noting that your claim will go on your insurance record and could affect your auto insurance rates in the future. If you’re unsure about your coverage or have difficulty understanding some of the terms and clauses within your insurance policy, then an attorney from The Law Place will be more than happy to help you. Insurance policies are often written in a style of language that can make them unclear and difficult to understand.
The State of Florida Is a No-Fault Insurance State
Before a car is registered, every driver in Florida must have:
- Personal injury protection (PIP), plus property damage liability (PDL) insurance.
- A minimum of $10,000 in PIP as well as a minimum of $10,000 in PDL.
- Continuous coverage. This is necessary even if the vehicle is not being driven or is inoperable.
- You must also purchase the policy from an auto insurance provider licensed to do business in Florida.
Florida is a “no-fault” state when it comes to car insurance. This means that in the event of a car accident, each party files a claim with their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault.
Personal injury protection will cover 80 percent of all medical bills up to $10,000 resulting from the car accident, regardless of who caused the crash. Property damage liability will help cover the damages to another person’s property caused by you or someone else driving your car.
In the case of serious injuries, you will be able to file a claim against the other driver and their insurance company. To sue the other driver, however, you must be able to prove that the injuries suffered by your driver are:
- Very serious.
If you can show negligence on the part of the other driver, then the person driving your car may be entitled to recover compensation for losses attached to future wages, future medical bills, plus pain and suffering.
Florida does not require drivers to take out bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage for bodily injury suffered by other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists in an accident caused by the policyholder or someone else who was driving their car at the time of the accident. Bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage is an additional, optional coverage that can be added by policyholders. It is worth including if you can afford to buy it.
Does Your Car Insurance Cover Other Drivers?
Most people assume that when a friend or family member is driving their car, that person is insured as the driver. However, this is not the case. Insurance applies to the vehicle. So, if someone else is driving your car, and they get into a collision, it will be your insurance that will apply. This is because, in Florida, car insurance follows the vehicle first and the driver second. So, if you allow someone else to drive your car and they get into an accident, your insurance policy will cover that driver and your vehicle, even if they are at fault.
Here is how your insurance policy’s coverage may help:
- Auto liability coverage – This may help pay for another person’s medical bills or damaged property linked directly to the accident. Your liability coverage wouldn’t pay for your friend’s medical bills or any repairs to your car.
- Collision coverage – This may help pay for your vehicle repairs. But, you will be expected to pay your deductible first, which is the amount you agreed to pay before your insurance coverage begins.
- Medical payments coverage – This will help if the driver of your vehicle is injured in an accident they caused. This coverage may help pay their medical expenses.
The Other Driver’s Insurance
The costs of the car accident might exceed the available coverage on your policy. In this case, the insurance policy of the person who was driving your car may provide additional coverage.
Even if your policy does contain sufficient coverage, your insurance company may still seek reimbursement from the insurance company of the person driving your car. Alternatively, your insurance provider might pay the entire accident claim but will then contact the insurance provider of the person driving your car to claim back some of the costs. All this will depend on the specifics of each party’s insurance policy’s terms and conditions.
Excluding a Driver
An excluded driver is someone you specifically ask your auto insurance provider not to cover. This could be someone in your family who has a suspended license, a DUI, a poor driving record consisting of numerous speeding tickets, or is simply an inexperienced driver.
If you do not exclude them from your policy, you are likely to see a significant increase in your car insurance costs. By removing them from your car insurance, you agree with your insurer that the excluded driver won’t be allowed to drive your insured vehicle under any conditions.
Excluding them will protect your insurance premium from going up. Once they are removed from your policy documents, your insurance company will update your policy. Then both your insurer and yourself will sign an endorsement to confirm that the named driver will not be covered if they drive your car. However, your policy will still cover them if they are a passenger in your car.
If the excluded driver takes your car without your permission and causes an accident, the insurance company does not have to pay for the damage. Permissive use coverage does not apply here. Both the policyholder and the driver might also be held personally liable for any damages caused to others in the crash.
Who Are Named Drivers?
This will tend to be drivers within your family household who are specifically named in your car insurance policy. Most insurers will ask you to list these individuals when you apply for car insurance, as well as any other people that regularly use your car.
The definition of a “household member” within insurance policies is usually someone that is living in your home and is related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption. If you have a roommate or housemate who would like to be covered by your car insurance, then you should check to see if that person can be covered as a household member. If the answer is no, then you should list them as a named driver instead. Failure to inform your insurance company about someone who you know will drive your car is a misrepresentation, a form of insurance fraud.
Giving Permission to an Uninsured or Unlicensed Driver Is a Crime
In Florida, allowing an unlicensed driver permission to drive your vehicle is considered a criminal offense. You could face fines up to $500 or even up to two months of incarceration.
Florida Statute 322.36 states that a person cannot authorize or knowingly permit a motor vehicle owned by themselves to be operated on any highway or public street by a person who is not lawfully licensed to drive.
This means that if you are going to allow an uninsured or unlicensed person to drive your vehicle, or you allow this person to drive your vehicle while you are a passenger, then you could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
Penalties for Permitting an Unauthorized Driver
Under Florida law, second-degree misdemeanors are punishable by:
- Up to 2 months in prison.
- Up to 6 months of probation.
- Up to $500 in fines.
You must be careful when handing your car keys over to someone else. If the driver causes a car accident in your vehicle, then you could be arrested for allowing them to drive. There are several potential defenses to this charge, such as in the case of an emergency or necessity. Your lawyer will be able to advise you on this.
Florida Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine
The dangerous instrumentality doctrine states that an owner of a dangerous tool can be legally responsible for any injuries that result from its operation. Every vehicle owner in Florida should be aware of this doctrine. Especially as most people don’t consider cars to be ‘tools.’ However, the judgment in the case of Southern Cotton Oil v. Anderson in 1920 stated that car owners could be held financially responsible for a car accident even if they were not driving at the time. This doctrine is also known as the principle of vicarious liability.
The reasoning behind the doctrine is that a vehicle is dangerous if operated incorrectly, and the owner of that vehicle is the person who has the responsibility to ensure that it is being driven safely.
The doctrine applies to many vehicles, not just cars and trucks. In Florida, even boats are considered dangerous instruments. The doctrine applies when the owner allows the driver to operate the vehicle, and this permission can be expressed or implied. Express permission is when you specifically allow someone to use your vehicle on a particular occasion. Implied permission is when generally give someone access to your vehicle. For example, if you leave your car keys out, knowing that others will drive your car. This will be enough evidence to establish implied consent.
Exceptions to the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine in Florida
If someone crashed your car and the victims look to you for compensation, then you may have grounds for fighting the claim, depending on who was driving. Possible exceptions in this case include:
- Valet parking attendants.
- Vehicle thieves.
- Auto mechanic and body shop employees.
Having a car accident lawyer to handle your case can potentially help in addressing these and other exceptions to the vicarious liability doctrine.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Be mindful about who drives your car.
- If you feel uncertain about the ability of someone to safely operate your vehicle, don’t let them use it.
- Don’t make your keys easily accessible if you know that someone will be tempted to drive your car – such as an inexperienced young driver.
- Understand the terms and conditions within your insurance policy for lending out your car to other drivers.
- If someone uses your vehicle more than 12 times a year, consider adding them as an additional named driver under your insurance policy.
- Exclude drivers with a bad driving record and protect your own insurance premium from going up.
- Make sure that if you do lend out your car, it’s to someone with a valid driver’s license and that you trust them with your car.
- Say no, and stick to it, when someone with a poor driving record asks to borrow your car.
- Make sure your insurance information and vehicle registration are in your glove box.
- Consider adding bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage to your insurance policy.
Contact The Law Place Today
If someone else drives your car and gets into an accident, then you should act quickly. Please pick up the phone and speak to one of our legal representatives now. The Law Place has a highly trained team of car accident lawyers with over 75 years of experience. We have the confidence and skill to take on complex and challenging cases.
The moment you appoint us, we’ll start preparing your case. Insurance companies are notorious for finding ways to pay out less than the accident costs are worth. We promise to make sure that your rights are protected and that you get the compensation you deserve.
Our team of car accident lawyers is here to give you the legal advice that you need, and we have the knowledge to do exactly that. Our law firm will make sure that the whole process is as straightforward as possible for you.
You can contact us on (941) 444-4444, and a personal injury lawyer will assist you in getting any compensation you are entitled to. Our phone lines are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Set up a free consultation today!