Car owners don’t think twice about it — they regularly hand their car keys over to valets, parking lot attendants, mechanics and car wash staffers. But what happens if a stranger damages your vehicle?
There really aren’t any statistics on how many drivers allow strangers to take the wheel of their vehicles. Or maybe they’re not strangers.
Who hasn’t let a family member or friend borrow your car for a trip to the corner market or needed transportation for a job interview?
If that driver wasn’t on your insurance policy, but caused damage to your car anyway, here's what you can expect.
By and large, car insurance covers the car, but not the driver. That leaves the onus on you, the owner of the vehicle, if an accident happens when you’re not behind the wheel if a friend or family member causes damage to your vehicle (and/or somebody else’s).
You can also expect the following events to take place if your car is damaged without you in the driver’s seat:
Your auto insurance rates will rise. Auto accidents can impact your auto insurance rates, anyway. But when an insurer gets wind of the fact that it wasn’t the policyholder who was driving, they’ll likely raise rates based on the premise that drivers who are loose with their keys are riskier to insure.
A stolen car situation won’t impact you. Auto insurance companies only hold you accountable for drivers who get in fender-benders (or worse) and have permission to drive your car. So if your car is stolen, and winds up in a crash, you won’t be held accountable.
A valet's employer is usually liable. Drivers from professional services, like a car wash employee or valet, technically have your permission to drive your car once you hand over the keys. But if they get in an accident, the business they represent, i.e. the car wash, garage or restaurant, is usually liable. If this situation occurs to you, make sure to grab both the driver’s personal information and the name and contact number of the establishment. You’ll specifically need to get the name and contact number of the establishment’s insurance company.
As always, the best medicine is your own due diligence. Every time you hand your keys over to a stranger, check for new dings or scratches on your car once you get it back. Chances are, the employee who nicked up your car will deny it. If that’s the case, contact your car insurance company straight away (take some photos for back-up) and explain the story.
Your insurance company will reach out to the offending party’s insurer and try to hammer things out, no pun intended.
As for friends and family members looking for a car to borrow, know that any accident that occurs will likely result in higher auto insurance rates. That one’s on you, so think twice about forking over your car keys to people you even do know.
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