Who Is At Fault For a Borrowed Car Accident in Washington State?

Vehicle accidents are not uncommon in Washington, and most injury and property damage claims are resolved through settlements with insurance carriers. However, this can become challenging in the event an accident occurs in a car that somebody else has borrowed. If you have been injured or sustained property damage in an accident where the driver was in a borrowed car, you need to know how you will recover compensation. Here, we want to discuss liability in these situations.

Who Does the Insurance Policy Cover – the Owner or the Borrower?

Borrowing cars or allowing others to borrow a car is not uncommon in Washington. Insurance carriers know that this happens, and insurance coverage typically extends to members of the vehicle owner’s household, any person living in the policyholder’s household related by blood, adoption, or marriage. Occasionally, roommates or other parties who live in a house could be covered under the policy.

If a person borrows a car and they are not specifically covered by the insurance policy, a “permissive use” aspect may apply. This means that the insured individual allowed another person to use their vehicle. It is important to examine the insurance policy to see whether permissive use is allowed. Not every policy allows this type of use for a vehicle, which means they would not pay compensation if an accident occurred while another person borrowed the vehicle.

Understanding Negligent Entrustment of a Vehicle in Washington

Vehicle owners may be held responsible if they lend their vehicle to a driver who is reckless, incompetent, or otherwise unfit to operate a vehicle. If a negligent driver causes an accident inside of a borrowed vehicle, the insurance policyholder could be held specifically liable for the resulting damages.

In order for a person to seek compensation from a vehicle owner that was not operating the vehicle at the time, they will have to prove that the vehicle owner knew or should have known that the driver was reckless or unfit to operate the vehicle.

Some examples of when negligent entrustment may apply include letting someone borrow a vehicle who:

  • Does not have a license
  • Is a minor or underage driver
  • Has a history of reckless driving behaviors
  • Suffers from an illness that could impair their driving ability
  • Is impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Is elderly and unable to operate a vehicle

Can Employers be Held Liable?

In general, employers will be held responsible for the actions of their employees, so long as the employee was performing job-related duties when an accident occurred. This includes vehicle accidents. If an employer allows the employee to use a vehicle for business purposes, then it is likely that the employer will be held responsible for any injuries or property damage that occur if an accident happens.

Types of Compensation Available

There may be various types of compensation available to individuals harmed in a crash caused by a lent-out vehicle. Washington requires that all drivers maintain $25,000 per person and $50,000 per person in bodily injury liability coverage as well as $10,000 in property damage liability coverage.

These are the minimums, and some drivers carry more coverage. Insurance carriers will typically pay out compensation up to the limits of their coverage, but they are not going to do so compensation willingly. Even if a vehicle has been borrowed, the insurance carrier will likely conduct a complete investigation and work diligently to determine liability. A Seattle car accident attorney can help answer other questions about a borrowed car accident.