What happens when someone else is driving your car and crashes it

So my cousin is in from out of town staying with us.  He takes my 3 year old Toyota Highlander out to run an errand.  On his way back,  he’s making a left turn at a stop light to turn onto our street.  He’s waiting in the intersection and then the light turns yellow and as it’s turning red he starts to make his turn.  Unfortunately, there is a 21 year old kid in his parent’s Mercedes who decides he will try to “beat the light” but he doesn’t make it.  After the light turns red, he slams into the front passenger’s side of my car.  The airbags in both cars are deployed and my cousin hurts his hand slightly – mostly from the airbag.  No one is seriously hurt, thankfully.

A police officer comes and says that without witnesses, he can not determine who is at fault.  He said that he can either give tickets to both drivers, or he’ll give tickets to neither.  Of course, they opted to have neither receive a ticket.  A police report was filled out, and the cars were towed to the village tow yard.  My cousin was given a card with a phone number to call the next day about the car.

My cousin has the same insurance carrier as the other driver, so they exchanged insurance information.  My cousin assumed that his insurance would handle the accident.

Thus starts the wonderful world of dealing with car insurance companies.  He calls his insurance company and reports the accident.  I call my insurance company and provide them with the details as well.

My cousin’s insurance initially said they would handle the claim.  The next day they told me that the received a report from the other driver and he claimed that he was making a right turn at the intersection.  I’m guessing he wanted to claim that he could make a right turn on red.  Based on the accident, there is clearly no way he was turning right.  He was going too fast to make a turn.  I pointed out to his insurance company that he changed his story.  They said that it shouldn’t matter to me but it may affect my cousin’s insurance.

A few days later, I heard from his insurance that they won’t be handling the claim because my insurance is the primary, but they will cover expenses if my cousin’s insurance has better coverage for specific items.  It turns out they have the same deductable, but my cousin’s insurance did have slightly better coverage for a rental car, so his covers costs beyond what mine will cover.

I then hear that the other driver’s insurance will be trying to recover costs from my insurance, claiming my cousin was at fault for the accident.  They said that the person making a left turn must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.  I asked about who is responsible if the other driver was trying to run a red light.  They said that if there were no witnesses, then most likely the person turning left would be viewed as responsible.  The reason this is important is for recovering costs.

As best I can tell, the insurance companies will meet and try to assign fault for the accident – and it can be either 100% fault to one party, any percentage less than 100%, or they can assign “no fault”.  If they assign a percentage, you can receive recovery of your deductable for whatever percentage the other person was responsible.  So – if they decide it is 50% each responsible, then you will get reimbursed for 50% of your deductible.  The downside is that if you are 50% responsible, then your insurance will cover 50% of the other person’s deductible, as well as 50% of the cost of the repairs.  As a result of your insurance paying for the other damages, you may face a rate increase.

I’m still not really sure I understand how rates are impacted by all of this.  My insurance company has said that my rates should not be impacted as it was not one of our listed drivers who had the accident, but it was someone we had allowed to drive the vehicle.  I’ll have to wait to see.

An additional reason it is important who is responsible for the accident is that if the other driver is 51% responsible or greater, then their insurance can be asked to pay for “diminished value” as well as loss of use.  There are experts who can determine diminished value and then you could submit a claim to the other insurance to cover the appropriate percentage of diminished value as well as the percentage for loss of use.  This can be a substantial amount of money.

After talking to both insurance companies and doing some reading on my own, it appears that it will be very unlikely that the other driver will be assigned responsibility as there were no witnesses.  In general, the person making the left turn will be assigned fault, or at least a majority of the fault.  It stinks when the other person was running the red light.  I’ll have to wait and see what the insurance company is going to wind up doing about assigning responsibility, but I’m guessing at best it’ll be 50/50 responsibility but most likely it’ll be more responsibility assigned to my cousin.

I’ve been super-busy lately, so I’ll have to do another post on dealing with the car repair places another time.

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