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Every now and then, whether it's because of laziness or merely out of the goodness of one's heart, everyone lends their car to a friend.
But what happens if that friend isn't such a good driver?
Does ownership of the car make you liable for an accident when someone else is driving?
When we discuss this form of car accident liability, we're actually discussing vicarious liability.
Principles of vicarious liability, along with state statutes, make a car owner legally responsible for a car accident in three situations.
In some states, owner liability statutes make car owners liable regardless of who is driving. This is pretty cut and dry.
If the state doesn't have a statute, an owner can be saddled with car accident liability if it is found that he negligently entrusted the driver with the car. This generally means that the owner had reason to know that the friend was a poor driver or in no condition to drive, yet handed over the keys anyway.
The third way that the law imparts car accident liability is when the car's owner permits a third party to use a defective vehicle. When, as an owner, you know your car is not safe for the road, yet allow it to be driven anyway, you may be acting negligently.
The fact is that, even if none of these situations exist, if someone causes an accident in your car, you're going to be sued. To help protect yourself from being in this situation, don't lend your car to a friend unless your insurance covers third party drivers, or if that friend's insurance covers their driving in another car.