Cars are a main source of transportation for many Houstonians. You use vehicles to get to and from work, run personal errands, pick up passengers, and travel across the state of Texas. If a friend is in a bind, you quickly hand over the car keys and think everything is fine. But when that friend is involved in an accident while driving your car, you and your friend begin to find yourselves in a unique insurance situation.
So what happens when someone is involved in a Houston car accident with a car that belongs to another driver? It all boils down to one aspect of insurance: policy coverage.
Car accidents and insurance language can be difficult to understand but in this article, the Houston personal injury attorneys at Johnson Garcia LLP will help you make sense of it all.
Understand there is no one size fits all insurance policy
According to the Texas Department of Insurance Automobile Insurance Guide most insurance policies offer coverage for accidents that happen when the car does not belong to the driver, if the driver received permission to use the car.
If you borrow a car often, you can buy a nonowner liability policy that pays for damages and injuries you cause to other people while driving the borrowed car.
The end of the year and the beginning of the new year is the perfect time to review your auto insurance coverage to figure out the types of coverages you have and who may or may not be covered in the event of an accident in your car.
Defining a Texas "non-owner driver"
A non-owner driver is a licensed driver who does not legally own the vehicle being driven. Typically, this person’s name is not listed on the vehicle title.
Anyone can be a non-owner driver including:
- Your friends
- Your family members
Questions to ask a non-owner driver after an accident
When a driver is involved in a car accident and does not own the vehicle, two questions should be asked:
- Did the driver have permission to drive the vehicle?
- Does the driver have liability or non-owner insurance?
Let’s say the answers to both questions are yes. Here’s what will happen when a non-owner driver gains permission to use a vehicle, but becomes involved in a car accident.
Permissive car drivers in Texas
When a vehicle owner lends his or her vehicle to a friend and the friend is involved in an accident, the owner’s insurance policy will be first to kick in to cover any damages.
Some examples of permissive use include:
- Letting a friend borrow the car for a doctor’s appointment.
- Allowing a friend to drive you home after a party.
While the borrower of the car is not listed specifically within the insurance policy, the borrower can be covered with the “permissive use provision” governed by the Texas Insurance Code Chapter 2301.
The code requires insurance policy language to include coverage for individuals, other than family or household members, using a covered automobile with the owner’s permission. So, what happens when the driver does not have permission?
Taking a look at non-permissive use accidents in Texas
If the owner of the vehicle did not give permission for the non-owner to drive the car, the accident would likely not be covered under the permissive use provision.
The law only allows three ways for permission to be granted:
- Written consent
- Verbal consent
- Implied consent
If permission was not given, essentially the car was taken and the driver could be passing the vehicle off as his own.
At this point, the car may be reported as stolen and the non-owner driver would be completely responsible for the damages.
When the car owner does not carry insurance
If the owner of the vehicle is in the same boat as the non-owner driver and does not have insurance, then unfortunately, there is no way to cover the costs of the auto accident. Any damages to the vehicle and medical expenses would need to be paid out-of-pocket.
This is why it’s important to be cautious when lending out your car. You should ensure the borrower is actually a licensed, responsible driver with a good driving record. There are plenty of unlicensed and uninsured drivers in the state of Texas.
Always review your insurance policy closely to ensure its validity and that you’re up to date on the type of coverage your policy contains. With House Bill 259 banning named driver policies as of January 2020, this opens the door for the permissive use provision to prevail.
Talk to a Houston injury lawyer for free about a non-owner driver accident
At Johnson Garcia LLP, we have over 30 years of experience understanding complicated insurance situations, such as car accidents involving non-owner drivers. Our firm is made up of knowledgeable personal injury attorneys in Houston who are ready to answer your questions and help you file your accident claim with the insurance company or with your local court. We’re here 24/7 to answer your call and schedule your free consultation.