Motor vehicle collisions happen every day. According to data found within the 2020 Washington State Traffic Safety Annual Report, there are nearly 90,000 car crashes reported each year. If you let someone else drive your vehicle, there is always a risk that they could end up in an accident. In this blog post, our Spokane auto accident attorneys explain the key things that you should know about your rights and responsibilities if someone else is injured in a crash while driving your vehicle.
Washington Regulations: Auto Insurance Tends to Follow the Car, Not the Driver
First and foremost, it is necessary to clear up a common misconception. Contrary to what many people believe, auto insurance coverage tends to follow the vehicle, not the driver. In effect, this means that if your friend or family member causes an accident while in your vehicle, it is your auto insurance coverage that will likely bear responsibility for any resulting claim.
As a general rule, this only applies to cases of “authorized” use. If you let someone borrow your car, your insurance is usually responsible for their conduct. However, if someone borrows your car without permission (unauthorized use), then your insurance policy likely does not bear liability for a resulting collision.
There May Be Additional Liability in Cases of Negligent Entrustment
As explained above, car insurance in Washington tends to follow the vehicle and not the driver. That being said, you are generally not personally responsible for someone else who you allow to use your vehicle—that is assuming that they are a competent, licensed driver. That being said, Washington allows injured victims to file a “negligent entrustment claim” against third parties who knowingly or recklessly loaned their vehicle to a dangerous person. You could be personally liable on the grounds of negligent entrustment if the plaintiff can prove the following four things:
- You gave another person permission to drive your vehicle;
- That person was so reckless or incompetent that they posed a genuine to public safety;
- You knew that they were dangerous at the time you loaned them your vehicle; and
- A plaintiff suffered actual harm as a result of the driver’s recklessness or incompetence.
As an example, imagine that a group of friends was hanging out together consuming alcohol at a house party. If one person loans their vehicle to another person who they know to be intoxicated, they could be held personally liable for a resulting crash on the grounds of negligent entrustment.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Car Accident Lawyer in Eastern Washington
At Albrecht Law PLLC, our Spokane car accident attorneys have the professional skill you can rely on. If you have questions about a car accident claim, we are here to help. Give us a call now or connect with us online to set up your free appointment with a top-rated attorney. From our legal office in Spokane, we provide representation in motor vehicle accident claims throughout all of Eastern Washington, including in Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Fairwood, and Airway Heights.