For the most part, auto insurance follows the car and not the driver; so, yes, most of the time if a friend drives your car they are covered by your auto insurance policy. You will want to verify with your particular insurance agent that your specific policy covers those who may drive your car that are not specifically covered by your policy. The fact of the matter is that, even while it will probably be more common that your insurance would cover drivers not on the policy, there are a lot of differing rules and guidelines about both who can actually be covered and what kind of coverage will be extended.
But let’s say that your policy says, “Yes, your friends can drive your car,” and you give your friend explicit permission to drive your car. It might seem obvious, but the insurance will not follow the car if the person driving doesn’t actually have permission from the owner. If your car is in an accident, the car will receive the full comprehensive and collision coverage of the existing policy regardless of who is driving it. This assumes that the existing coverage is adequate, of course; if it is not, then the driver’s insurance will most often step in and handle the rest (or all, if there is no type of coverage in the first place).
The driver’s coverage will always be secondary and will only come into play if there is damage in excess of the existing policy limits or if the owner’s insurance does not cover drivers not on the policy. However, if the car in question is a business or commercial car, the driver’s policy will not provide any coverage.
This can vary from state to state and, in those no-fault states where everyone is required to get PIP (personal injury protection) insurance, then an individual in an accident will be covered by his or her own personal injury insurance. Also, liability insurance will often follow the insured and not the car, because the existing policy will likely cover liability only for drivers named specifically on the policy. If you let someone drive your car, you may want to ask him or her what kind of policy they hold before handing over your keys.
In addition, if the driver is a relative who lives with you, your insurance company may not extend coverage to that driver. They’ll deny coverage in this instance because they will likely assume that the relative is driving your car often, and will say that you should have long ago told them about this person who drives your car. They might try to argue that you essentially decided, when you didn’t name the relative on the policy, that you simply didn’t want that person covered by your insurance. Their decision may be affected, however, if you can prove at the relative does not often drive your car.
Following this, a driver who often drives your vehicle in general cannot usually be covered by your insurance because, again, the insurance company believes that you specifically did not name that driver in order to keep your premiums lower. Consider it: if you add a person with a spotty driving history to your policy (several tickets, wrecks, or DUI’s, for example) that person would cause an increase to your premium. When you decide not to name them, the company may believe that you were being willfully deceitful.
If your friend is at fault in the accident, the friend will take full responsibility for any traffic tickets associated with that accident. Your insurance, of course, will be the insurance affected by the accident; the premium will likely go up. It is also worth noting that in many cases, even if your insurance covers other people who drive your car, it may do so with limited coverage. You’ll probably also want to know, or at least have some idea, of the kind of driving history your friend has, as it’s your policy and premium on the line every time you let someone else drive your car.
The best way to figure out the answers to questions like this is to contact your insurance company directly and ask these questions in relation to your specific policy. Regardless of what your company’s rule is, always be cautious when giving anyone the keys to your car, and always be familiar with what will happen in the event that any of those drivers wreck your car.
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