Does Insurance Follow the Driver or the Car? So Complicated!

Fran
Fran Majidi
October 23, 2019

You asked a friend to drop you off at the airport driving your car because it would be convenient. Or maybe your cousin was visiting for the week and you loaned him the car while you were at work. And there was an accident, with your friend at the wheel of your car and the accident was his fault. Who’s covered?

It all seems confusing when it comes to who’s covered and who isn’t covered by car insurance. Most people are unsure if their insurance follows the car or the driver, but unfortunately, the answer is more complicated than that. Often, coverage is determined by the kind of insurance coverage you have and the kind of coverage your friend/family member has.

Some coverage follows the car while others follow the driver. There are also some specifics in a policy that may determine an unexpected outcome. You should never make assumptions about your coverage. It’s best to thoroughly look over your policy and even speak with your agent if the insurance jargon confuses you.

Below we give you a breakdown of car insurance coverages to show you which applies to the car and which applies to the driver. This should help you figure out who’s covered if someone else was driving your car or if you borrowed someone’s car and had an accident.

Does Liability Coverage Follow the Driver or the Car?

Liability insurance is something that always follows the driver, regardless of what car he or she is driving. New Hampshire is the only state that does not require liability insurance. No-fault states require more than liability insurance at a minimum. In those cases, liability and the required personal injury protection coverage would cover the driver.

You are always covered by your liability insurance, no matter what car you drive. So, if your friend used your car to drop you off at the airport and had an accident that was his fault, his liability insurance (not yours) would pay for the losses of the other driver. If he had no insurance, you’re both looking at a huge headache.

As for your car, it depends on what other kinds of coverage your friend has and the insurance you have. Your friend’s liability insurance would cover the losses of an at-fault accident. Damage to your vehicle would have to be covered by your collision in this instance (see more on this below). Even then, it’s not guaranteed that the damages to your car would be covered. If they are covered with your friend driving, limits may be lower because someone other than you was driving your car. If you exceed your collision limits, the remainder may come from the driver’s liability insurance.

Basically, what we’re trying to tell you is that everyone’s insurance goes up!

Do Comprehensive and Collision Follow the Driver or the Car?

Comprehensive and collision insurance coverages follow the car usually. That being said, the driver may not be covered if he or she is not listed as a covered driver. If that person is listed as an excluded driver, then none of the comprehensive or collision insurance will apply. Why would someone be excluded? It may be because you have a teenager in your home. Your agent may have asked if you want him/her included only for you to see your rate go up dramatically. If your excluded teen has an accident, you won’t be covered in this instance (exclusions on the policy are not negotiable so don’t even try it).

It’s important to go over your policy’s declaration page to see what you are and are not covered for as well as to see who is covered when driving your car. If you regularly allow someone to use your car, you must list them as an “included driver.” Anyone who uses your car, no matter how infrequently, should also be included.

If, say, your excluded teen is driving your car, which has collision and comprehensive coverages, theft of your car (while in the teen’s care) or an accident (in which they were driving) would not be covered by your insurance. If your teen doesn’t have a car and doesn’t have liability insurance, you may be footing the entire bill of fixing your car.

What’s an Included Driver

In many situations (but not all), family members and the people you live with are covered for collision and comprehensive insurance and are listed as included drivers. Some carriers make it more difficult than others when it comes to applying for coverages in accidents involving a non-owner driver who is not listed on your policy.

It’s worth it to have people who may raise your rate listed on your policy rather than having no coverage when you need it most. Be sure to include the people you live with and check your declarations page to make sure they are written in after your policy is written. The people that should be included (even for emergency situations) are your spouse or partner, family members, roommates, and close friends who on occasion get behind the wheel as designated drivers and the like.

Many insurance carriers will cover someone else who gets behind the wheel of your vehicle and has an accident based on the idea that the driver was a “permissive user.” Basically, unless you file a police report stating that the person who crashed your car stole the car from you, this could be just about anyone with a license that you know.

In some cases, the liability insurance of the driver behind the wheel of your car would pay for the repairs to your car if they caused the accident. In other cases, you are covered by your own insurer if your collision coverage claim is accepted. Often circumstances may affect the insurance company’s decision to cover or not cover you. For instance, if your friend was driving you to the Emergency room, it’s likely that you will be covered by your collision coverage.

Yes, it can feel like the insurance companies arbitrarily decide whether or not you’re covered and each insurer’s policy is different. To make it all even more murky, some insurers that are lenient in covering accidents with permissive-use drivers place lower limits on those claims. Learn what your carrier’s policy is before you need their help. Better yet, compare car insurance prices and policies by filling out a form here.

What if I’m Driving Someone Else’s Car?

In most cases, your own insurance will cover, at least partially, an accident if you had one driving someone else’s car. For instance, let’s say you total your friend’s car and the accident exceeds limits on his/her collision coverage, your liability insurance may pay for the rest.

Your medical payments coverage and personal injury protection coverage will follow you if you drive someone else’s car. Just to confuse you some more, sometimes, Med Pay follows the car, so it’s always good to ask when shopping car insurance quotes.

Don’t assume that an accident in someone else’s car won’t raise your rates. It very well may raise both your rates!

Coverage details are different with each insurance company, and the outcome of a claim often involves haggling between the insurance companies involved.

Always check with an agent to see how your insurance company covers an accident with you or a friend or relative behind the wheel before you buy car insurance. The slight differences in one policy versus another may translate to thousands of dollars saved if there ever is a costly accident in your car.

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