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When Your Boyfriend Wrecks Your Car

Question: My boyfriend borrowed my car for a short errand. I am not listed on his policy, and he is not listed on mine. He slid into some gravel and smashed the front end of my car. No other vehicle was involved. He says that HIS insurance company doesn't cover him for other vehicles. That sounds strange to me. Why should MY insurance pay because of his poor driving? What can I do besides maybe get a new boyfriend?

Answer: We can't give you relationship advice, but as for damages to your car, your boyfriend is correct. Car insurance follows the car, not driver.

You can't claim the front-end damage to your vehicle under his car insurance policy. Instead, you'll need to file a claim through your own collision coverage. Your auto insurance policy covers your car even when someone else is driving. This will count as a claim against your policy, and you will owe the deductible amount. Your rates may rise as a result.

If you don't have collision coverage, then you must pay out of pocket for the repairs to your vehicle - or make your careless boyfriend pay.

It could be worse. If your boyfriend had hit someone's property (car, fence, building, etc.), then your property damage liability coverage would have been used to pay for those damages. Once your liability limits were exceeded, then it's possible his own liability insurance would be tapped to pay the excess damages.

Grab your car insurance policy. Look at the limits of your liability for bodily injuries and property damage. Consider what your car is worth. Check your deductible. Now add them all together.

At minimum, that is what you risk every time you hand the keys to someone.

But you're not off the hook once the insurance companies have paid out every nickel they should. Once both policies are tapped out, he and you are left personally responsible for the cost of any remaining damages. That means anything you own or have saved could be a target if an accident victim decides to sue. As a car owner, you have vicarious liability for those who operate your vehicle - and that is why it's always risky to let someone else use your vehicle.

Love is one thing; insurance is another

If you have collision coverage, then before filing a claim there is a couple of things you should do.

First, review your policy and make sure your boyfriend is covered to operate your vehicle. He likely is covered as a permissive user of your vehicle. If you live together, your insurer may have required you to list him as a driver on your policy for him to be properly covered and so refuse to cover this incident unless you put him on the policy and pay back premiums for him. (See " Who can drive your car?")

Next, get an estimate on the damages done to your vehicle. If the cost of repairs is less than your deductible amount, then there is no reason to file a claim since collision insurance coverage only kicks in after your deductible has been paid out. If the damages are just a bit beyond your deductible, then decide if it's worth making the claim and possibly seeing a rate hike.

Even though you weren't the one driving, if a collision claim goes through your auto insurance policy there is the possibility your rates could go up since your claims history is a rating factor for insurers.

When it's all said and done, don't be surprised if your auto insurer requires you to add your boyfriend to your policy. Even if you don't live together, some insurance companies will say that your boyfriend must drive your vehicle on a frequent enough to wreck it, and thus he should be placed on your policy. Your insurer would then analyze his risk as a driver and charge accordingly. 

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