In a recent blog post, I discussed what it means to a “permissive user” of a vehicle in Colorado. As the name implies, a permissive user of a vehicle is someone other than the owner/primary driver of the vehicle who has been given permission by the owner to drive the car. For example, if you allow your friend to drive your car, your friend is now a permissive user of your car while he or she is driving it. This is true, even if you only give your friend permission to drive the car from one place to another and they end-up driving it elsewhere.
So why do you care whether or not someone is a permissive user? The answer is because it matters whether you are a permissive user for insurance coverage purposes in the event of a car accident.
Am I Protected If I Am In An Accident In A Borrowed Car?
Under Colorado law, anyone who owns or drives a vehicle is required to carry auto insurance. For this reason, many people assume that if they borrow a car from a friend and are in a car accident, then the driver (not the owner) of the vehicle's insurance company is responsible for any damages resulting from a car accident caused by the driver. This is not the case.
If you cause an accident in a vehicle borrowed from a friend, then it is your friend's insurance company who will be responsible for the accident – as long as you are a permissive user of the vehicle. This means that if you injure someone in the car accident, the injured person will seek damages from your friend's insurance carrier. If your friend's insurance coverage is insufficient to cover all of the injured persons' damages, then your insurance company be required to pay the amount of damages in excess of your friend's policy limits.
Your own insurance will also be responsible for covering damages in the event your friend failed to carry auto insurance at the time of the accident or your friend's policy has lapsed for some reason.
If neither you or your friend had a valid auto insurance policy at the time of your accident, then anyone injured in the car accident can file a personal injury lawsuit against you as well as your friend to recover the damages they incurred in the accident. Your friend may also be liable for any traffic/criminal tickets issued by law enforcement and/or penalties imposed by the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles for failing to carry auto insurance as required by law.
The only scenario in which your friend and/or their insurance company will notbe liable for an accident you caused in their vehicle is if you stole the vehicle from your friend, or you used it without their consent or permission. Under these circumstances, you will be personally liable for any damages you cause (even if you have your own insurance, they will not cover any damages because you were committing a crime at the time of the accident). You will also likely face criminal charges for stealing a vehicle.
For the above reasons, you may want to think twice before borrowing your friend's car. At the very least, you should ensure that your friend has a valid auto insurance policy and that they know who will be responsible for covering damages in the event you cause a wreck.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, whether you caused the crash or were borrowing a friend's car at the time, you need the help of a qualified personal injury attorney—like those at the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal—who will get you the compensation you deserve for your medical expenses and help limit your liability if you were at fault. Our lawyers will fight for your rights and get you the damages you need to recover from your injuries. Call us today for a free consultation at (303) 647-4511, or visit us online.