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Am I responsible if someone else caused an accident while driving my car?

Craig McClellan

Accidents involving other people's cars happen all the time. So what happens if someone else caused an accident while driving your car? Are you responsible?

The answer surprises many people: Yes, you are responsible under California law, but there are limits to your responsibility. Under the California vehicle code, motor vehicle owners are liable for injury to person or property caused by operation of their motor vehicles "by any person using or operating" the vehicles with the owner's permission.

This makes sense, since insurers insure a vehicle, not a driver. But what about the money above and beyond California's required insurance limits ($15,000/$30,000)? In that case, whether or not you are liable for the extra amounts depends on whether you had reason to believe the driver was unfit to drive. Did you give the keys to someone who had been drinking? Did you know that the driver didn't have a license or had a poor driving record? If so, then you may be liable for compensation above and beyond your insurance policy.

In any case, the victim or victim's family may also go after the driver of the vehicle who caused them injury.

There are many unknown complexities to car accident law that make it all the more important to speak about your car accident case with a personal injury lawyer. Before you choose to lend your vehicle to your lovable but reckless friend, think about what could happen if he or she gets into an accident.

Source: California Department of Motor Vehicles, " VC Section 17151, Limitation of Liability of Owner Bailee or Representative"