Someone else got into an accident in my car. What now?
June 5, 2012 12:37 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend hit a car while driving my truck. I let the insurance lapse not too long ago. We switched cars not too long ago but haven't made it "official" so I still own mine and she still owns hers. My truck is fine but his car was pretty banged up. He's calling her tonight for insurance info, since he was in a hurry to get to work at the time. What now? We're in Ohio.

She's thinking of lying and saying she was driving her car and giving them her insurance info. If this doesn't work, what are the consequences for us? Will I get in trouble for letting someone drive my truck that wasn't on the "authorized drivers" list? Am I legally responsible even though someone else was driving the vehicle and I wasn't there? What are the potential consequences for my girl?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Jesus christ.

Listen, don't lie. About anything. If you do, it could be fraud. You could go to jail. DON'T LIE.

Her insurance covers her while she's driving your truck. It's very simple and straightforward.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:43 PM on June 5, 2012 [19 favorites]

Lying is a spectacularly terrible idea. If she has her own insurance, it should cover her while she was driving your truck- have her call her insurance and confirm this.

You're going to make sure your insurance is current before you drive any vehicle or let anyone else drive yours again, right? Right?
posted by charmedimsure at 12:51 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

Why are you asking this question here? You need professional advise.
You need to talk to your insurance agent - and her insurance agent -
and I would talk to a lawyer too.

Time to break into the rainy day fund - get real help from professionals.
The potential consquences for insurance fraud are huge. Do not do it.
posted by Flood at 12:57 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't lie but offer to pay out of pocket for all his damages up front to the repair shop and not go through insurance. Offer him help in any way, driving around, getting estimates etc.
posted by saucysault at 12:58 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

IANYL and I am not licensed in Ohio. I will tell you that although a citation may issue for not having proof of insurance/being insured, it seems unlikely that driving an uninsured vehicle is a crime. If you are concerned, though, do the obvious thing -- talk to a local, licensed lawyer.

There may also be civil consequences. People who suffer injury or damage in car accidents (or their insurance companies, if they have uninsured/underinsured motorist protection) may file a lawsuit. If that happens, you likewise need to talk to a lawyer.

I will say that almost everywhere, it is a crime to lie in any sworn statement, and it is often a crime in many jurisdictions to lie to a police officer. So, Don't Lie. Also, insure your truck before it moves anywhere again.
posted by bearwife at 1:00 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't lie about it. The consequences of that will be far, far worse than the consequences of taking this on the nose, and by your own admission his car is pretty banged up. Basically that means that his car is filled with evidence about where it was hit, how hard, how high up your fender is, possibly what color paint your truck is.

The insurance adjuster who looks at the car will know, better than you or I ever could, whether or not this damage is consistent with being hit by a car or a truck. He's seen a thousand hits this year already, he has a picture in his mind of what they look like, and if that one is outside of his mental model of what it looks like to get hit by a Honda Accord (or whatever your girlfriend drives) then he's going to take a closer look and he'll find you out. I'm not saying that you absolutely will get caught, but if the adjuster gets at all suspicious and looks into it at all, they are going to catch you.

She was driving, which means that her insurance should cover it. And you should get insurance for your truck.
posted by gauche at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

A whole lot depends on whether her insurance covers her when driving someone else's vehicle. If it doesn't, then she will have to pay for repairs herself, and also be in breach of Ohio's financial responsibility law (relevant BMV page). The potential penalties are not fun. You should figure out whether her policy covers her in this circumstance. If it doesn't, pony up for professional advice.
posted by jon1270 at 1:18 PM on June 5, 2012

Insurance covers the driver moreso than the specific vehicle, which is why you can use your own insurance when renting a car if it has sufficient coverage (or you're willing to take the risk of covering the gap yourself).

Pretty sure you're not going to lie at this point. Just have your GF file with her insurance.

Then get both vehicles squared away with proper registration and insurance ASAP.

The Universe gave you a free warning. Take it!
posted by batmonkey at 1:20 PM on June 5, 2012

As I understand it, liability insurance typically covers injury/damage to other people and their property in two situations:
a) The owner of the policy (and anyone else listed on the policy) driving any vehicle they are licensed to drive.
b) Any eligible driver driving the policy owner's listed cars. (Usually this does not include people who live with the policy owner but are not listed on the policy, but should should check yours/hers to be sure.)

Upshot: her insurance should cover this accident, even though it was in your truck. However, if you live together, it sounds like you might be driving her car uninsured, which is a very bad idea.
posted by ktkt at 1:21 PM on June 5, 2012

Nthing that her insurance should cover it. I am thinking this because, when you rent a car, they offer you insurance which you can deny if you have your own insurance - because your insurance should cover you regardless of which car you're driving (though it is odd you have to match your insurance to a car but oh well).

Definitely get yourself re insured. That is the ONE thing I never let lapse
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 1:22 PM on June 5, 2012

Lying in this instance would likely be a felony. Not worth it. Just offer to pay the damage. You made a mistake (OK, your girlfriend did) and harmed this other person. Make them whole. They very likely do not care how this occurs, through insurance or whatever.

As to the point made above, Your insurance on this vehicle was primary but has lapsed. Your girlfriend's policy would be secondary and likely provides some coverage. You can confirm with your girlfriend's agent. Given that the policy rates will go up it may pay to handle this outside of insurance, depending upon the amount of damage and the cost of insurance. Expect a 15% or more surcharge for three years.
posted by caddis at 1:31 PM on June 5, 2012

Lying in this case would be insurance fraud. Others have given you good advice on how to deal with this, but lying in the manner you describe is definitely a crime and you will most likely get caught when the insurance info is for a car and the guy will tell his insurance company he was hit by a truck! Do you think no one at his insurance company is going to question that?
posted by Nightman at 2:03 PM on June 5, 2012

Even taking an amoral, pragmatic stance on things, it's really ill-advised to lie in this situation as it's precisely the kind of thing that insurance companies are used to encountering. Don't mess with professionals.
posted by philip-random at 2:17 PM on June 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

As well, have fun finding insurance again if you get caught. Such a bad idea.
posted by Nightman at 2:18 PM on June 5, 2012

Really? Your insurance covers you if you're driving someone else's car? Is this true? I know it's true in the UK but I didn't know anything about that in the US and as far as I've heard it's a specific CAR that's insured, not a person. Perhaps the law's different in Ohio, and in any event I apologize for the uninformed comment, but this really surprised me.
posted by supercoollady at 2:35 PM on June 5, 2012

Don't mean to be rude, but whoever says that the insurance is connected to her is incorrect.
The insurance ALWAYS follows the vehicle so in this case you would be responsible for providing your insurance information and contacting your insurer.

I work for a claims manager in Canada and this is the rule, no ifs, ands, or buts. It also says this on the Insurance For USA website.

To quote some important points from the site:
-Car insurance is tied to the vehicle not the owner
-The coverage follows the car

For example, if you loan your car to a friend (anyone with permission), and they get into and accident, your insurance will pay the claim, not theirs.

You gave her permission to drive the car. You are responsible for this even if she was driving.
posted by livinglearning at 2:50 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Do not lie. About any part of it.
2. Find a lawyer.

Do not do anything that the lawyer mentioned in #2 has not said to do. If they tell you to lie, find another lawyer.

(I am in Ohio, my mom's an attorney - but she can't represent you, so call your local bar association or legal aid if you need help finding a lawyer.)
posted by SMPA at 3:29 PM on June 5, 2012

It is true that comprehensive and collision (for damage to your car) are tied to the car. But liability is usually tied to the driver. Of course, the only way to know for sure is to look at your specific policies.
posted by ktkt at 3:50 PM on June 5, 2012

Building on livinglearning's comment, I think the confusion a lot of people have about "following" insurance or things is tied to the driver's record.

In Canada anyway, if I go and drive someone else's car and get into an accident, it's the owner of the car's insurance that handles the reparations for the accident, but if I did something stupid to cause the accident, I also get dinged on my driving record, which has potential insurance cost penalties when I go to renew my insurance the next year.

For example, when I was but a young lad, I wrote off my mother's car making an unsafe left turn while another person was demonstrating how much over the speed limit his Camaro went and plowed into me hard enough to spin my car onto the sidewalk. The cops at the scene deemed the accident to be both our faults, me for the left hand turn without due care and attention, and Camaro guy for doing double the speed limit, thus depriving him of sufficient time to stop. As for how insurance handled it, my mother's insurance paid her for the writeoff of the car, and she went out and got a new (well, new to her) one and insured it at her normal safe driver discount. I on the other hand was told to get my own damn car, and when I located one a few months later and purchased it I had a 30% penalty applied to my insurance costs as a result of that accident.
posted by barc0001 at 3:57 PM on June 5, 2012

This is a two-part no-brainer:

1. Tell the truth.
2. Her liability policy should cover her for damage she does while driving, regardless of whose car she was driving.
posted by starkraven at 4:12 PM on June 5, 2012

livinglearning, you are incorrect. It is true that we buy insurance to cover our vehicles, and those policies cover the vehicle regardless of who is driving (depending on policy language, which differs state to state). We also buy coverage to insure us from having to pay out-of-pocket damages that we cause to others while driving a vehicle.

Any vehicle.

In Texas, this is state law. In fact, you cannot obtain a license without proof of personal liability insurance coverage.
posted by starkraven at 4:16 PM on June 5, 2012

supercoollady: "Really? Your insurance covers you if you're driving someone else's car? Is this true? I know it's true in the UK but I didn't know anything about that in the US and as far as I've heard it's a specific CAR that's insured, not a person. Perhaps the law's different in Ohio, and in any event I apologize for the uninformed comment, but this really surprised me."

In many states, I don't know if Ohio is one, this is true. I can drive any car I'm legally licensed to drive and my liability insurance covers it because I'm driving. The owner's policy is primary, if it exists, but if not, I'm still covered. If I had comprehensive and collision coverage, that would also carry over to any car I drive, up to the policy limits, of course. Only the liability is required by state law, however.

Unfortunately, it appears Ohio is probably one of the states where the liability insurance is attached to the vehicle, not the driver. (I think this is utterly insane, but I don't live there) Sad news for the OP, since it's an automatic suspension of your driver's license if a car you own is not insured and is crashed. It doesn't seem to actually matter whether someone else's insurance would pay up, either. You own uninsured car and the BMV finds out, you lose your license. Ouch.

OP, your only out here is to pay the damage out of pocket (presuming you aren't actually insured) and hope the other driver doesn't file the form with the BMV telling them you're uninsured.

anonymous wrote: "Will I get in trouble for letting someone drive my truck that wasn't on the "authorized drivers" list?"

Wait, what? If your truck is uninsured there is no "authorized drivers" list. Do you have insurance or not? You seem confused enough that I think an attorney may be a necessity here, even though it's usually not in simple auto crashes.
posted by wierdo at 4:32 PM on June 5, 2012

Oh, I should note that "your girl" will also have her license suspended for lack of insurance unless her policy covers her no matter what vehicle she drives.
posted by wierdo at 4:33 PM on June 5, 2012

this exact thing happened to me, except i was the guy who got hit. the first time we exchanged insurance information, they lied about it (but still gave me a correct contact number). the second time we exchanged information, they gave me a second bullshit made up policy.

it was at this point that i simply gave up on these lying, useless people and washed my hands of the whole thing. i took care of it myself, out of my own pocket, and my opinion of humanity went down a notch permanently.

don't be that person for the guy you've already caused damage to.
posted by radiosilents at 4:33 PM on June 5, 2012

Some policies (hers) are written to cover the cost. See page 22 of this document from the Ohio Dept. Insurance:
In general, your liability insurance will cover you if you drive a friend’s car and the friend is not insured — but be sure to check your policy or talk to your agent.
You really need to read her policy. According to this not-very authoritative seeming website,
In cases where the owner of the vehicle was not the operator, you may also be able to sue the owner in addition to suing the operator. In order to sue the owner, however, you must establish that the owner was a passenger at the time of the accident, or that the operator acted as an agent of the owner during the time in which the accident occurred. Ohio law also holds owners liable if the plaintiff establishes that the owner knew or should have known that the person the owner allowed to operate the vehicle was a reckless, incompetent, or inexperienced driver.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:01 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

offer to pay out of pocket for all his damages up front to the repair shop and not go through insurance

I'm surprised more folks haven't 2nding the above idea. I'm not a lawyer, so there may be some reason it isn't workable (i.e., he may already have contacted his insurance company, he may *have* to contact his insurance company, you may not actually be able to cover his out-of-pocket expenses right now, etc) but I'd love to hear some lawyer's responses to the idea. I mean, no one likes making an insurance claim, right? Even if you're blameless (as he seems to be) it can result in increases in premiums for him down the road.

So, lawyers: is it worth trying something like this? "Hey, I'm really sorry about the incident, but I know dealing with insurance companies can raise your premiums as well as mine, so if you'd like to work something out where we settle this between us without involving them I'd be open to that idea. What do you think?"

Is that workable?
posted by mediareport at 6:00 PM on June 5, 2012


That's certainly workable, and in my opinion preferable if the cost to repair the vehicle is not substantially beyond the deductible. I carry a $1000 deductible; if the cost to repair the vehicle was $2000, I'd certainly avoid the insurance claim if possible.

I practice in Texas, where we've adopted the federal rule of evidence that doesn't permit settlement offers to be admitted into evidence at trial. Ohio could be different, but I would be shocked.
posted by starkraven at 6:15 PM on June 5, 2012

Wow, there is some spectacularly bad information here. You're insuring a vehicle not a driver, and said insurance follows the vehicle. Some, some policies may cover the damage to another vehicle driven by the named policyholder.
posted by nulledge at 10:02 AM on June 6, 2012

"Pretty banged up" doesn't say much.

You'd really do well to bend over backward and assist that driver in getting an estimate for the repairs and paying it. Borrow if you have to. The alternatives of dealing with state penalties for an uninsured vehicle are likely going to be FAR more expensive, and then you'd STILL have to pay out of pocket.

Above all, DO NOT LIE. Insurance fraud is WORSE than what you've allowed to happen already. Then you'd be facing jail time, fines AND then STILL HAVE TO PAY THE DAMAGES.
posted by wkearney99 at 11:42 AM on June 6, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
Turned out to be a moot point - the person never called. My girlfriend suspects he didn't have insurance either since he was in a hurry to get away, didn't call the police, didn't take down any information except a phone number, "couldn't find" his insurance card and now hasn't been in contact at all.

Looks like we caught a lucky break here. I thought it was fine to let the insurance lapse since I wasn't driving the truck and I never expected her to get into an accident in it - this was her first car accident in her entire life. But I'm going to get re-insured ASAP, and I consider myself extremely lucky that she hit someone who either wasn't insured or didn't really care that he got hit. Never realized the consequences could be so serious but reading the potential ones on here freaked me out. Glad I asked!
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:19 PM on June 6, 2012

Wow, a much happier conclusion than I at all saw coming!
posted by Salamandrous at 10:43 AM on June 8, 2012

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