What Happens When the Driver of the Car is Not the Owner?

by Graham Scofield on Jul. 22, 2019

Accident & Injury Accident & Injury  Car Accident 

Summary: In this article, attorney Charles Allen discusses your legal options when the driver of the car that you were in an accident with does not own the vehicle.

Car accidents in Atlanta are frequently caused by drivers that do not own the vehicle they’re driving. Fortunately, in Georgia, auto liability insurance coverage follows the vehicle, not the driver. In other words, if the at-fault driver is driving a vehicle owned by another individual, the vehicle’s auto liability insurance policy will usually cover an accident victim’s injuries even if the at-fault driver has no personal auto liability insurance coverage. If the at-fault driver did purchase his or her own auto liability insurance policy, that coverage will act as secondary liability insurance coverage to the liability insurance policy that covers the vehicle. 


When the Driver’s Insurance Matters

As a general rule, auto liability insurance policies cover every household member that carries a driver’s license, regardless of which household member owns the vehicle. However, sometimes insurance companies will exclude coverage if a particular member from the household is driving the vehicle. For instance, if a family member has been arrested for DUI, or caused a prior serious car collision, that member may be excluded from the policy. 


If the vehicle is driven by a non-household member, the vehicle owner must have given permission to that driver to use the vehicle. If the non-household member used the vehicle without the owner’s permission, the owner’s liability insurance company might deny the claim. 

In both of those scenarios, the at-fault driver’s personal auto liability insurance policy would likely be the sole source of liability insurance coverage. Unfortunately, more often than not, the at-fault driver doesn’t have his own liability insurance policy because he didn’t own a vehicle – that’s why he was borrowing the vehicle in the first place. Therefore, if the driver was excluded, or otherwise not a permissive user, usually the only source of insurance coverage for the accident victim’s injuries is through the accident victim’s underinsured motorist insurance policy, if the victim purchased that coverage. 


How an Accident Attorney Can Help

If you were seriously injured by a driver that did not own the vehicle he or she was driving, we urge you to contact a car accident lawyer. These cases are technically challenging and often lead to protracted litigation if the liability insurance company denies coverage. 


Liability insurance companies know that it can be difficult for an accident victim to prove that the at-fault driver was a permissive user. Therefore, liability insurance companies frequently deny coverage – even if they think that the at-fault driver was probably a permissive user – out of hope that accident victims will not be able to invest the time or money to prove that the driver was a permissive user. 

The attorneys at Allen & Scofield Injury Lawyers, LLC have the time, dedication, and resources to prove that the at-fault driver was a permissive user. In a case that one of our attorneys recently resolved, State Farm (the liability insurance carrier) had insisted, for years, that the at-fault driver was not a permissive user of the vehicle owned by his relative. We reasonably believed that the at-fault driver resided in the same household as the vehicle owner. Therefore, absent a specific policy exclusion (none existed), the at-fault driver would, indeed, have been a permissive user. 

Unfortunately, we’d been unable to serve the at-fault driver with lawsuit papers at the address where he and the vehicle owner lived because the driver’s housemates would tip him off each time our process server came to the house. State Farm refused to let the case proceed unless we proved that the at-fault driver lived at the vehicle owner’s address. Serving the driver with lawsuit papers at that address was the best way to prove his residency with certainty.

After years of litigation, we discovered that the at-fault driver had given a secret sworn statement to our client’s uninsured motorist insurance carrier wherein he admitted that he and the vehicle owner resided in the same household. Once we produced that recording to State Farm, they realized that we’d destroyed their meritless defense, and they begged us to settle the case.

If the insurance company disputes liability in your case, we will sue their insured vehicle owner to determine whether there is any merit to their defense. If their defense is baseless, we’ll take your case to trial unless they offer to pay you fair compensation for your losses.

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