After a car accident here in California, what happens next depends on who owns the car, who was driving it, how it’s insured, and who else was involved. Things can get complicated when the crash involves a borrowed car.

Maybe you loaned your car to someone who wrecked it. Or maybe you were driving a friend’s car and someone caused a crash. You could even be an innocent driver who was hit in traffic, then later discovered the other driver had borrowed the car.

If you’re confused, don’t worry. We can help. Keep reading and we’ll clear up what could happen after someone borrows a car has an accident in California.

Sorting Out Permission and Insurance

California car insurance follows the car, not the driver. This means the accident should be covered by the car owner’s insurance regardless of who was driving. However, there are a few exceptions.

First, it must be established whether the driver had permission to be driving the vehicle. If there was no clear consent or the car was stolen, the car owner’s insurance company will probably refuse to pay and put the responsibility on the car thief.

Also, the insurance company may require proof that the driver who borrowed the vehicle is a licensed driver. If you loan your car to an unlicensed driver, insurance will refuse to pay and whether you realize it or not, you may have committed a crime under California law.

California Vehicle Code Section 14604(a) states: “No owner of a motor vehicle may knowingly allow another person to drive the vehicle upon a highway unless the owner determines that the person possesses a valid driver’s license that authorizes the person to operate the vehicle.”

Finally, things get even murkier when the car is uninsured or the owner had coverage but allowed it to lapse. The driver and/or the owner of the car may find themselves being sued for the injured person’s damages.

Primary vs. Secondary Insurance With Borrowed Cars

Here is another wrinkle with car insurance. It’s important to determine who holds the primary liability coverage and whether there is secondary coverage available. The borrowed car is usually associated with the primary insurance coverage and the driver’s insurance is usually the source of the secondary insurance coverage.

Here’s how the progression of insurance coverage works. In most cases, the insurance company associated with the borrowed car will kick in first to cover the accident damages. However, if the person who borrowed the car causes damage that exceeds the coverage limits, their liability policy can act as secondary coverage. But their coverage only kicks in after the borrowed car insurance is tapped out.

To make this clearer, let us look at an example of how primary and secondary coverage work in an accident scenario. Imagine that you loaned your car to a family member and they caused an accident that injured someone. The primary insurance is your insurance – the insurance that covers the borrowed car – because you are the vehicle owner.

There is also secondary coverage from the driver of your car (the person that borrowed your car). This means your insurance, as the primary insurance, covers their injuries and damages up to the limit of your policy. Then, any remaining amount will be paid by the driver’s insurance, which is the secondary insurance in this scenario.

Of course, there is never a guarantee that either the primary or secondary insurance will actually pay when the time comes. You may need a car accident lawyer to help you with your case and put pressure on the insurance carriers to do the right thing.

Don’t Let Loaning Out Your Car Ruin your Life

Here’s the bottom line: Having insurance, including uninsured motorist insurance, is extremely important. Without it, you could owe the expensive costs of a severe car accident whether you were driving or not. While California only requires a minimum of $15,000 in coverage, a car accident can easily exceed this amount.

Too often, a nice person loans their car to a family member or a friend and ends up regretting it after a crash. One car accident can drain a bank account and ruin a friendship forever.

If you’re facing a situation like this, contact the team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We’ve helped plenty of people in your shoes. You’ll find that we’re caring, compassionate, and exceptionally experienced with car accident cases.

We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life

After an accident, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many types of traffic injury claims, including car accidents that involve borrowed vehicles. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details. 

We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.


Video Transcript:
A popular question I often get is, what coverage applies when someone else is driving my vehicle and they get in an accident? So the simple answer is, in California the insurance follows the vehicle instead of the driver. So if you grant permission to someone and allow them to drive your car, so either hand them the keys or if it’s just implied that they have permission to drive your vehicle, your insurance coverage would apply if they get an accident or hit a parked car, anything like that. The one caveat to that is if they borrow your car without your permission or your car is stolen or something like that and they get in an accident. But just be careful who you allow to drive your vehicle because your insurance coverage will apply if you grant them permission to drive it.

Car Accident Client

I was involved in a car accident that left me with a broken leg, thanks to someone running a red light! It was my first time being involved in something like this (totaled car, surgery, and 4 days in the hospital). Through advice of some close friends and family they recommended I get a personal injury lawyer, being relatively new to the Bay Area I had no idea who to go to, so I started shopping around and came across Sally Morin and I instantly felt at ease with them overseeing my case. I was completely right, they handled everything I needed them to do even though the other parties insurance was useless and is so bad they are supposedly being sued by other people for not paying out in spite of that the team here was able to get the full settlement amount. All of this allowed me to completely focus on my physical recovery! A big shout out to Rebecca and Carmen!

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We Handle Your Personal Injury Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life

After an accident, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many types of traffic injury claims. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details.

We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a
free online case evaluation.


It is essential to know your rights after a traffic accident so you can protect yourself and the value of your claim.
This guide will help you:

  • 1Know what to do when dealing with insurance claims, police reports and lawyers.
  • 2Avoid making mistakes that undermine the value of your claim
  • 3Put yourself in a position to get the best settlement possible