Money between friends...
April 30, 2007 11:38 AM   Subscribe

So I wrecked my friend's car...

This weekend I caught a ride to a wedding in another state with a friend. It was a long drive and my friend asked if I would do some driving. I was fine with being asked to drive some, but expressed significant reservations about driving into a strange city in front of two other people in the car. And my friend is well aware I'm a spotty driver and even made jokes about it during the drive. I explicitly said I was terrible in situations where I had to follow directions and didn't know where we were going. I ended up driving the last two and a half hours of the trip.

Sure enough the exit our directions said to take was closed, and we got lost. We made a wrong turn near our hotel where traffic was horrendous. In the process of trying to move over into another lane after making a wrong turn, I hit another car doing serious damage to both cars. I checked before changing lanes but seriously underestimated the speed of the traffic coming up behind me. Cops cited me as being at fault but did not cite me with a ticket.

Well, after the accident I come to find out that my friend did not have collison insurance so while the car I hit is covered by his policy, repairs to his car are not (my own auto policy does not come into play at all -- when you hand over your keys you hand over your policy). I was kind of shocked frankly to find out he didn't have collison -- he paid 14k+ for the car a little over a year ago. My friend's car is near totaled, repairs are estimated at $7,500 -- but he still ends up potentially with a salvage title which will kill the resale value, will likely have higher insurance rates on top of that and a lot of hassle.

The owner of the car is a VERY good friend on a personal level and has helped me find work in the past when I needed it. Legally, I'm not obligated to pay anything, but I obviously want to preserve the friendship and not have money come beteween us. The accident was clearly my fault; the only thing I can say in my defense is that I assumed his car was reasonably insured when he handed over the keys and I might not have agreed to assume the risk had I realized he only he had such minimal insurance. But needless to say I do feel quite responsible. What do you think is fair of me to pay my friend in this situation? Nothing? Half the repairs? All? Somwhere in between?
posted by Heminator to Human Relations (64 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
All, because you were driving and that makes you responsible.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:49 AM on April 30, 2007


Is the $7,500 estimate dead-set, or could you shop around and find a better one? I think the best way to start is to do some calls, tap into any contacts you have in the auto-repair industry (if any), etc. and show your friend you feel responsible and are more than willing to do some legwork.
Beyond that, you should talk to your friend about how much you should pay. Tell him all that you said here - you feel responsible, don't want to mess up the friendship, etc. - but also mention the part about him handing you the keys without having collision insurance and how that surprises you/bothers you. Offer to pay half, or 75%, or all, and tell him to be totally honest with you about how much he wants you to pay.
Just talk it out with him, he'll be the best one to get your answer from. As long as he's very honest and doesn't say "Pay me half" and then secretly get pissed off that you only paid half.
posted by slyboots421 at 11:50 AM on April 30, 2007


Paying half the costs is more than your friend has a right to expect. How much can you actually afford? Can you afford the repair costs without causing yourself a great deal of financial pain? In your situation, I'd try to err on the side of generosity, within what I could afford. Then I would never, ever agree to drive his (or anyone else's) car again.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:53 AM on April 30, 2007


This reminds me of a situation between a couple of my friends. One was carrying the small dog of the others on his shoulder when the dog wiggled out, and broke both of its front legs on the ground. Perhaps he shouldn't have been holding such a small dog so high off of the ground, but it was something that both of the friends did often and it was obviously an accident - could've happened to anyone. Anyways, the total veterinary bills came to around $3000. I believe he paid for the initial x-rays and a couple other things, totaling about $1000...

... They're still best friends.

I think that, reasonably, you should be obligated to pay no more than half of the repairs. He gave you the keys knowing full well what the possible consequences were - along with your bad driving reputation.

I say that you should just sit down and talk to him about it and see how he feels about it. Feel free to argue with him about it, but not in a hostile way.

Also, remember that favors are a good exchange for money (take "favors" however you want to!)
posted by JacksonEsquire at 11:56 AM on April 30, 2007


I'd say that you should, as friends, attempt to talk this out reasonably the best you can. If you hit a point of contention, then agree on finding a third-party who you both believe to be neutral to determine terms. Whatever you do, do not make this into an argument, only a matter of business that needs to be settled and then swept under the rug.

I'm not sure, however, what sort of third-party you could use. A trusted friend, perhaps. This is really about finding a compromise that both of you are willing to accept, because I really doubt either one of you is going to love the arrangement. In all, consider it a learning experience for everyone involved.
posted by mikeh at 11:56 AM on April 30, 2007


"Legally, I'm not obligated to pay anything, but I obviously want to preserve the friendship and not have money come beteween us."

I wouldn't be so sure of that. The car was damaged through your negligence; you owe your friend full damages.

Do you own an insured car? Check your policy: you might be covered for this accident.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:56 AM on April 30, 2007


Just to clarify here: you hand over your own policy when you hand over the keys. My policy does not come into play here, sufficed to say that would have been an ideal situation.
posted by Heminator at 11:58 AM on April 30, 2007


You're responsible for not being assertive enough to say, "No, I don't feel comfortable driving your car through an unfamiliar city" and sticking to it. This lesson in assertiveness cost you $7500. Your friend might say, "Oh, no, no, I don't expect you to pay all of it..." but morally, IMHO, it's your obligation, even he does make an objection. If he's financially sound and you're not, maybe you can make an arrangement to pay it off over several years. If neither of you can come up with $7500, take out a loan and pay the bank back over several years.

Your decision = your consequences. Yeah, these are some harsh consequences, but you would not be much of a friend in my book if you refused to accept them.
posted by desjardins at 11:59 AM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


and I might not have agreed to assume the risk

You did not agree to assume any risk. Your friend agreed to the risk when he asked you to drive. He also knew about the cheap insurance payment he was making every month which covered only other folks' cars, not his.

IMO, you owe nothing. But hey, it is your really good friend, so maybe if he needs help you could help him out with whatever you can afford.
posted by poppo at 12:02 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Heminator writes "Just to clarify here: you hand over your own policy when you hand over the keys. My policy does not come into play here, sufficed to say that would have been an ideal situation."

That's not necessarily true. See this article. The operative quote: "Still, if you have comprehensive and collision coverage through a primary insurance provider, all you would have to pay in the event of an accident is your deductible. Steve Woodard, forms manager at State Farm Insurance, said that most primary insurance companies extended comprehensive and collision coverage to policyholders in a rented or borrowed car for up to 30 consecutive days."

Check your policy.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:03 PM on April 30, 2007


Basically, adding to what I already said, it comes down to one key decision:

Was it your fault because you took the keys, or was it his fault because he gave you the keys?

I feel like if you had asked to drive/borrow the car, it would be a completely different situation. But because he's the one that asked you to drive, he should face the consequences of his action. Especially because you told him you had serious reservations.

Also, any normal person (you) would assume that someone with a fairly new car (considering he paid 14K for it) would have collision insurance on it.
posted by JacksonEsquire at 12:05 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


you hand over your own policy when you hand over the keys

That's not always, or even necessarily often, true. I know for a fact that my auto insurance policy, for example, covers me when I'm driving any car, not just the specific cars for which the policy was written. I made very, very sure of this, so that I know that, when I on occasion rent a car, I can turn down the insurance offered by the rental company without increasing my personal liability at all.

You might want to check with your insurance carrier just to be on the safe side. The accident's going to go on your driving record anyway, because it was reported to the police, so you might as well tell them about it yourself.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:07 PM on April 30, 2007


If I was you, I would be angry at the friend. I rarely drive, dislike driving, and would feel equally uncomfortable driving into a strange city. Sounds like your friend ignored your reservations and pressured you into driving, WHILE knowing that if an accident did happen, there'd be no financial recourse. It might be okay for him to take on that kind of responsibility for himself, but to foist it on you without even telling you seems pretty low.

The accident was your fault, but accidents happen - that's why they're called accidents. Not having adequate insurance, however... that was intentioned and premeditated. So I think at least half of the responsibility lies with your friend. Possibly he even feels guilty for ignoring your reservations?

It's a tough situation, since your friendship is involved. You probably both have feelings of anger, frustration, and guilt right now. I think the best thing you can do is talk it out, equally admit to poor choices & errors in judgment, take equal responsibility, and agree to pay equal damages. Hopefully your friend will be equally committed to preserving the friendship; if so, I think he should be willing to accept this as a fair solution.
posted by crackingdes at 12:08 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I know for a fact that my auto insurance policy, for example, covers me when I'm driving any car

Mine does too.
posted by poppo at 12:09 PM on April 30, 2007


Also see this FAQ response. Coverage transfers for the policy described there (as for many other policies, including my own). Your own policy may vary.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:09 PM on April 30, 2007


Let me be clear. My policy will NOT cover the accident. I checked. I have the absolute minimum policy on my own car; I'm in the process of buying a new car -- the car my wife and I currently drive, I bought for $450 from a friend. It makes sense not have comprehensive/collision on my car, perhaps in contrast to my friend.
posted by Heminator at 12:11 PM on April 30, 2007


To play devil's advocate a bit:

The friend, as owner of the car, is responsible for this large, expensive piece of machinery. Friend made the decision to persuade Heminator to drive in a situation that was beyond his comfort level. Not having collision insurance yet handing over the keys like this is not just foolish -- this is what insurance is for.

/my best friend got into a minor fender-bender in my car during a long trip (rear-ended someone on a badly-designed exit ramp.) I paid the deductible and didn't give her a moment of grief about it. my car = my responsibility.

That said, I think paying half is reasonable.
posted by desuetude at 12:11 PM on April 30, 2007


is just foolish, I mean.
posted by desuetude at 12:11 PM on April 30, 2007


The accident was your fault, the crappy insurance was his fault. I think you should talk it out. Your respective monetary situations may also come into play: was he penny-wise and pound-foolish with the insurance because he couldn't afford the full coverage?
posted by OmieWise at 12:13 PM on April 30, 2007


Morally, you own nothing. If I were the owner and you'd made these protestations to me but I'd forced it on you anyway, I would be shocked beyond belief that you'd even offer to pay half.
posted by DU at 12:15 PM on April 30, 2007


Legally you are responsible for the entire cost of the accident. (IAAL, but (1) IANYL and (2) IAN an automobile accident lawyer; however (3) I watch a lot of Judge Judy (IWALOJJ).) Good insurance is nice, but is not something that changes the legal analysis (of who is negligent).

Sucky news. Something similar happened to me @20 years ago, although I borrowed the car so the ethics part was different. At the time I was a poverty-stricken student and couldn't even offer to pay part. Since then I have often thought back to the accident and have felt horrible that another person had to pay the $3,000 that I owed. Years later I tried to find the person, but I couldn't via google and other methods. (Also she got married and I couldn't remember her new last name.)

How about a payment plan?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:16 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow - I hope that, aside from the damage to the car, you are all ok after this accident.

This is a thorny issue. if this had happened in British Columbia, here is one of the things that you could have done (and maybe you could do this in your state as well)

In Small Claims Court, prior to going to trial there is a mandatory hearing called a Settlement Conference. This is a meeting with a judge, who will listen to both parties, and will help arrive at a settlement.

Your friend and you may wish to investigate something similar in your own state. It doesn't mean that either of you is taking the other to court. "settlement conference", "arbitration" are two terms that you might want to look up in Google for your state. BTW I'm not a lawyer. Good luck to both of you.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:16 PM on April 30, 2007


Legally you are responsible

Though I agree with other posters that the ethics are a bit more complicated. If I were your friend I would probably reach a compromise division of the loss.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:18 PM on April 30, 2007


Looking over the thread, you'll find defenses of any position you're willing to take. I think the best solution would be for you to discuss the incident with your friend, and try to determine a solution that is the most agreeable to both of you (if you can bring in an impartial negotiator all the better).

To me, the situation has x% of blame on your friend for pressuring you into driving, and y% for you getting into the accident. Only you and your friend can work out what x and y should be.
posted by drezdn at 12:28 PM on April 30, 2007


I don't know anything about law, but ethically I think that if you agreed to drive, you agreed to pay. Sure, it'd be nice if he had insurance, but he doesn't, and believe me, $7000 is a small price to pay to keep a good friendship.
posted by luriete at 12:48 PM on April 30, 2007


If I were your friend, I'd like to think that I'd absolve you of any guilt, as you had tried to say you didn't want to drive, and because I was dumb enough to drive a nice car without proper insurance. He should be apologizing to you.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:49 PM on April 30, 2007


To play devil's advocate the other way . . . in response to those who suggest that even if it was legally your fault, you bear no other responsibility, save that you want to do to maintain your friendship.

1. Your friend was doing you a favor in providing the car and driving a substantial part of the journey. This is not a situation in which you had responsibility thrust on you with no prospect of personal benefit.

2. You could have declined. You could have asked about insurance coverage. You could have pulled over, or asked him or someone else in the car to take over, once you approached the city.

3. As I think you pointed out, $7,500 is not the sum of the damage done him. There is a lot of hassle involved, resale value, etc.

I don't mean this to be critical, but supportive: if you are inclined to volunteer to pay half or all, and have the means to do so, I don't think you should feel like you're being a chump.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 12:51 PM on April 30, 2007


This is complicated. Legally you're not obligated to pay anything, we're agreed.

But ethically you were both negligent. You were negligent when you took the keys to operate a motor vehicle without knowing what your insurance coverage was; he was negligent when handing you the keys to his motor vehicle without informing you of exactly what your insured status was.

You are both injured by your common negligence; your friend's car was totalled, but you also both got dinged for your insurance as being parties to an at-fault accident. The amount of money it'll cost to repair the car is probably about the same as the extra insurance premiums you'll both pay over the next few years.

You also drove a car unsafely, resulting in an accident, even though you:

1) Knew you were a "terrible driver" in the situation.
2) Were in a strange city.
3) Didn't know where you were going.
4) Are bad at taking directions.
5) Were dealing with "horrendous" traffic.
6) Had already taken a wrong turn.
7) Had just participated in a conversation where you and he agreed you were a "spotty driver."

You shouldn't have been driving in this situation. You were in over your head and you were well aware of it. In addition, your friend was aware of it, and you discussed it.

Having been issued a driver's license doesn't absolve you of the responsibility of driving in a safe, effective manner at all times. Both you and your friend were complicit in putting you behind the wheel in a situation where your skills weren't up to the job.

Sit down and discuss these issues with your friend. Let him know that you're interested in fairness and in keeping his friendship, and that you propose to have a discussion with him in regard to achieving both those ends.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:00 PM on April 30, 2007


You don't mention having talked with your friend about this. That's where you should start. I don't think you "owe" him any money in the sense that, if you decided to write off the friendship and walk away he would not be able to successfully claim any money from you (IANAL!! and I'm not even in the same country as you).

But you don't want to write off the friendship. What it takes to preserve the friendship and have everyone walk away from this feeling like they've been treated fairly depends on the people involved and the relationship between them. No-one here is going to be able to give you the one thing you should do. (Though perhaps some might suggest strategies for figuring out what it is)
posted by winston at 1:06 PM on April 30, 2007


Ethically, I'd say you are responsible for half the damages. You're the one who crashed the car, but at the same time your friend knew there were consequences for not having full coverage. Your friend should be responsible for that considering (a) it was his choice to not have that coverage and (b) he didn't notify you that he didn't have that coverage. I know that I'd pretty much refuse to drive a friend's car if they didn't have full coverage.
posted by PFL at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2007


ikkyu2 writes "Legally you're not obligated to pay anything, we're agreed."

I'm pretty sure this is 100% wrong. In the eyes of the law, the only negligent party was Heminator.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:12 PM on April 30, 2007


IMO you don't owe him anything. You may have been responsible for the accident, but you are by no means responsible for your friend's lack of insurance.

If you feel you *have* to give him something, give him $500. If he had full coverage it's likely that's what his deductible would have been.
posted by sephira at 1:16 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


IMO you don't owe him anything. You may have been responsible for the accident, but you are by no means responsible for your friend's lack of insurance.

If you feel you *have* to give him something, give him $500. If he had full coverage it's likely that's what his deductible would have been.


Maybe I'm not thinking clearly, but I can't see how this coheres. If there's some kind of conjunctive principle going on, who IS responsible? The friend may be responsible for his lack of insurance, but is not responsible for the accident, so . . . he's not on the hook either. Is the default then whatever the law says, or are you also making a legal assertion, and saying that the chips have fallen?

In any event, I can think of no surer way to end the friendship than offering $500 along with the explanation you suggest. It's more insulting than generous, and seems designed to rub salt in the wounds re. a decision that the friend would in hindsight clearly wish to do differently.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:30 PM on April 30, 2007


(my own auto policy does not come into play at all -- when you hand over your keys you hand over your policy)

This is pretty much dead wrong. His policy should kick in, and if the level of coverage provided isn't high enough, yours should. Which, IMO, is the morally right thing to do - this is what insurance is for. Let your policy take the hit, and pay the higher premiums. Maybe if he's nice, he'll offer to help you pay your premium.


This is quick, and general, but worth a read. (also, do some googling, and call your damn insurance company already...)
posted by god hates math at 1:34 PM on April 30, 2007


To everyone who is giving Heminator's friend a hard time about not having collision on the car: There is no moral requirement for someone to insure their own belongings against loss. It may common, or even sensible, but it certainly is not part of this equation.
posted by popechunk at 1:38 PM on April 30, 2007


mr_roboto, negligence doesn't carry a financial obligation to the injured party until a judge says so in a civil action. None has been filed. The original poster's friend may have a case, but it sounds like he's not very likely to sue.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:42 PM on April 30, 2007


As to "calling your damn insurance company already," well . . . I assume this is also why Herminator is receptive to popechunk's point.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:45 PM on April 30, 2007


It doesn't sound like the legal matters are the most relevant thing here.

If this is in fact the case (and I hope it is), then my take is that you are part responsible 'cause you're the one who messed up and crashed his car, but he is part responsible 'cause he insisted that you drive and didn't have full coverage. Therefore, I figure you should pay half. You're acknowledging your shared responsibility without letting him off completely. I'm also going to Nth calling your own insurance company, since apparently they might cover it. You're really going to feel like (and be) a tool if you don't find this out until you've already payed $3750 instead of like $500.

That being said, the real solution is to talk like adults about it. Try to treat it as a separate issue from the friendship, it should just be a business transaction.
posted by !Jim at 1:47 PM on April 30, 2007


Yeah. The accident was your fault, but the fact that he wasn't adequately insured is his fault. He knew that you weren't a good driver and he knew that he was underinsured and he asked you to drive regardless.

You don't owe him a penny, and he should not think any less of you for not ponying up.

To everyone who is giving Heminator's friend a hard time about not having collision on the car: There is no moral requirement for someone to insure their own belongings against loss. It may common, or even sensible, but it certainly is not part of this equation.

There is certainly a moral obligation to either insure or be prepared to lose any property that you offer to another person on a temporary basis. This isn't a case where Heminator asked to borrow the car; he was asked to borrow it.

Let's take it down to the five-dollar level. If a friend asks to borrow a book from me, I should expect to get it back or to have it replaced by that friend. If I offer to loan a book to a friend, I should not expect to get it back nor for that friend to replace it if it is lost or damaged.

I'm kinda stunned that this is even being debated, frankly. "You weren't insured? Sorry, man. I guess I could give you a ride to work until you buy a new car."
posted by solid-one-love at 1:52 PM on April 30, 2007


Let's take it down to the five-dollar level. If a friend asks to borrow a book from me, I should expect to get it back or to have it replaced by that friend. If I offer to loan a book to a friend, I should not expect to get it back nor for that friend to replace it if it is lost or damaged.

1. Remind me not to loan you a book. Suffice it to say that many would feel responsible for replacing the book; one party offered, but the other accepted. I can see both sides of this, but not how it is stunning.

2. Tweak your five-dollar illustration. You and your friend were teamed up on a homework assignment; your friend has never bothered to shell out for a book, and when your capacity to do all the work has just about been tapped out, you suggest that maybe he should take the book and do a little work. Maybe your answer is the same, but that's closer to the facts here.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:59 PM on April 30, 2007


Sorry, forgot to add: and your friend decided to read the book in the shower.

Sorry, I'll shut up now.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:00 PM on April 30, 2007


I know what I would do in each situation:

If I owned the car, I would pay for all the damages and take it as an expensive lesson in insurance and putting bad drivers behind the wheel. I wouldn't accept any money from you, but I'd be grateful that you wanted to make things right financially. I might ask you to give $1,000 to my favorite charity, or something similar.

If I was the driver, I wouldn't bother arguing or discussing anything. I'd simply buy them a new car, park it in their driveway, and leave a note saying "Oops."

What do you think is fair of me to pay my friend in this situation? Nothing? Half the repairs? All? Somwhere in between?

I think the best answer here depends on how much it will hurt you to pay out. If you can easily afford $7500 or whatever, then just offer 100% and see what happens. If you can't, then you could make a very reasonable offer at $4,000, stating that you really only understood that you'd have $500-$1,000 liability, and simply can't handle more.

But whatever happens, just aim for fairness. Be sure that you'd accept the outcome just as well if the positions were reversed.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:28 PM on April 30, 2007


Or you could try asking The NYTimes Ethicist.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:29 PM on April 30, 2007


I seem to be almost alone in thinking that you rightfully owe your friend the full amount.

If you were so nervous about your driving, you should not have said yes to him, period. That's your fault. But you didn't stand up for yourself then, so it's only fair that you now have to pay for the damages you created. If you had told your friend you were drunk or had lost one of your contacts or had a suspended license -- a legal or medical condition that he should have reasonably known would put you, the car, the passengers, and the other people on the road at risk -- and if he then still pressured you to drive, then that would be another story. But that's not what happened.

Also, I'm kind of squicked by your comment that a self-admitted bad driver would somehow be more 'okay' with driving in an unfamiliar setting if he (you) thought the car were well-insured. How much insurance the car carries is (or should be) totally irrelevant as to whether you can judge your driving skills up to the task at hand. What if (God forbid) people in the other car had been injured? Would you have honestly said to them "sorry, I thought it was kinda okay to drive cause I thought my friend paid for better insurance than it turns out he did"?

Time to pay up -- definitely try to set up a payment plan -- and do not borrow anyone's car again.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:39 PM on April 30, 2007


Clyde Mnestra, I'm not suggesting that Herminator really do anything. My suggestion was that if he felt incredibly compelled to do *something*, and it sounds as if he is feeling that way, I was of the opinion that that should be the extent of it. In what way he does it and if it retains the friendship is up to him, since I'm not privy to the personal dynamics of that relationship.

Herminator, personally I feel that if you were to pay the full amount, your friend would be taking advantage of you. Yes, you are at fault in the accident, but he chose not to insure his vehicle. It's a hard lesson, and it sucks to be in that position. Either way, I hope you get whatever it is you need, be it keeping your friendship or clearing your conscience. I wish for you to have both.
posted by sephira at 3:56 PM on April 30, 2007


NotMyselfRightNow: "All, because you were driving and that makes you responsible."

What he said.
posted by loiseau at 4:12 PM on April 30, 2007


I've been in a very similar situation (minus the car I borrowed being worth so much). I looked at about 20 bodyshops before finding one that agreed to do the work for about half the cost of everyone else if I paid in cash (sketchy? yes, but the work was top notch). My insurance took care of the other car so I guess I ended up paying on all fronts, but it was totally worth it. Honestly, my insurance didn't go up all that much, and I preserved my relationship with the other person.
posted by pantsrobot at 4:23 PM on April 30, 2007


I seem to be almost alone in thinking that you rightfully owe your friend the full amount.

You aren't alone. I'd do the same thing. And if somebody did it to my car, I'd expect them to make a genuine offer, even though I'd reject it.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 5:36 PM on April 30, 2007


You owe nothing.

Your friend chose to take his car to the wedding and let some friends come along. He assumes all the risk right there. For him to expect you to take that risk when he asks you to drive is bullshit. His insurance doesn't enter into it, and him knowing you're a poor driver doesn't enter into it. Why would you do him the favor of driving if you are taking on the financial risk as well? Your friend knows that accidents can happen. When he asks you to drive nothing changes in liability between the two of you, the only change is you doing the driving. Extend the logic and you'll see how absurd it is. Wouldn't it be in his best interest to offer his car for the trip but have his friends drive the whole way? After all, that way he doesn't drive and his friends become his free insurance.

Etiquette wise it's a completely different issue. It depends on your wealth, your friends' wealth, the difference between them and favors done in the past. For a friend who had gotten me work, especially a full time job, I would pay the whole thing. If I was making comfortable money say >70% of rent a week, I would probably pay half or a bit less. Even if I was broke or just barely making it I would want to pay something, including paying some small amount a week for a long time.

But your obligation, is none.
posted by BigSky at 6:07 PM on April 30, 2007


Talk with your friend, but this seems like a good 50/50 split, seeing as he insisted you drive and knew your driving record, but it was actually you that got into the accident.

Roboto, as to the legal negligence: There's a concept in tort law called assumption of risk, where damages are mitigated depending on who did what. The poster's friend knew he was a bad driver when he let him drive the car, so he might have assumed part of the risk by doing so and thus, even if it were taken to court, be required to pay part or all of the damages himself. [This is not legal advice, I'm still in law school, etc.]
posted by Happydaz at 6:33 PM on April 30, 2007


Your friend chose to take his car to the wedding and let some friends come along. He assumes all the risk right there. For him to expect you to take that risk when he asks you to drive is bullshit.

Your summary is bullshit.

The original poster was clearly negligent. The OP had a duty to say "I really cannot operate this vehicle safely." Instead he continued, and put their lives and the car at risk.

Fortunately we're talking about fixing a car, not the people inside it. $7.5k is a cheap lesson,all things considered. $4k doubly so.

There's a concept in tort law called assumption of risk, where damages are mitigated depending on who did what.

I seem to be alone in thinking that jokes about bad driving indicate a confidence that nothing bad is likely to happen in the future. I've made fun of a lot of people's driving, but whenever I felt they were actually a danger, I simply didn't let them drive me around.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 6:44 PM on April 30, 2007


You were negligent in the accident. If you had been driving your own car, you would expect to pay for your damages given the absence of Collision insurance. If you had carried Collision insurance on your own vehicle, it would have transferred to the vehicle that you were driving when the accident occurred as a secondary coverage. The very fact that this is true (though I'm not yours, IAAIA, and have been licensed in Washington DC) should be an indicator to you that you are responsible for the damages to your friend's vehicle.

It was your responsibility to make sure that you were driving safely, so the onus falls on you. Had the situation been reversed (and had your friend carried Collision on his own vehicle), his insurance would have paid for your damages, and he would have been fully responsible. He didn't cause the accident. Why should he pay?
posted by mewithoutyou at 7:00 PM on April 30, 2007


If your friend insisted that you drive, or even if he asked you to drive, then that puts at least some of the responsibility on him. But if you made the offer out of the blue ("I can drive if you want") it's a little different. Also, you assumed he had collision coverage but this wasn't the case. You could've asked...but he could've told you, too. Your friend is perhaps not totally off the hook.

But ultimately you crashed the car. The onus is on you, but with the other factors I mentioned, perhaps a 50/50 split is in order? That percentage you'll have to work out between yourselves. Also, $7,500 sounds really high, what exactly was damaged? Get some other estimates first of all.
posted by zardoz at 7:10 PM on April 30, 2007


I'm pretty close to Asparagirl and Tacos on this one, but I'm more impressed at how absolutist some of the answers are -- especially, but not exclusively, those saying that he owes no obligation.

You owe nothing. Your friend chose to take his car to the wedding and let some friends come along. He assumes all the risk right there.

Perhaps you were privvy to the discussions they had before they set out? And you can tell from the original post when the subject of sharing driving came up?

For him to expect you to take that risk when he asks you to drive is bullshit.

I think the problem is that neither one of them really formed any expectations on this score. But I'm more struck at your outrage, since we don't know that the owner has actually asked the poster for anything. This seems to be more a matter of the poster's own sense of responsibility.

His insurance doesn't enter into it, and him knowing you're a poor driver doesn't enter into it. Why would you do him the favor of driving if you are taking on the financial risk as well? Your friend knows that accidents can happen. When he asks you to drive nothing changes in liability between the two of you, the only change is you doing the driving.

Perhaps what was transferred was the following: driving, including an expectation of reasonable care, including refusing outright if one really felt oneself to be incompetent, or pulling over when anything got too hairy. But I'm more sympathetic to the OP for warning about driving skills, without thinking it changes everything.

Extend the logic and you'll see how absurd it is. Wouldn't it be in his best interest to offer his car for the trip but have his friends drive the whole way? After all, that way he doesn't drive and his friends become his free insurance.


I think the original post conceded that paying the cost of repairs wouldn't make the owner whole. Nor would your average owner take the risk of perishing, presumably. For these and other reasons, the only thing absurd is thinking that this scenario illustrates anything about a closer question than you are willing to acknowledge.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:14 PM on April 30, 2007


There's a concept in tort law called assumption of risk, where damages are mitigated depending on who did what.

This is nothing like the doctrine of assumption of risk.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2007


Sorry, meant what you wrote does not resemble what the law understands as the assumption of risk doctrine.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2007


"ikkyu2 writes 'Legally you're not obligated to pay anything, we're agreed.'

I'm pretty sure this is 100% wrong. In the eyes of the law, the only negligent party was Heminator."


If it were this open and shut, one would not need to spend three years studying to become a lawyer.

Since I'm in the midst of my 4th semester of law school finals (and, therefore not a lawyer)... let's play "Law School Final Exam"...

Your argument is that the OP was negligent in his driving and, therefore, owes the money. Other tort principles to consider, however, are "contributory negligence" and "assumed risk"

One might argue that allowing the OP to drive was an act of recklessness. "Negligent" would be allowing someone to drive your car without knowing what kind of driver they are. Allowing them to drive when you know they're a bad driver and CONTINUING to let him drive once they got lost and were in even less familiar settings was a contributing factor to the accident.

The fact that he knew about OP's poor driving skills suggests to me that he weighed the risk of an accident against the inconvenience of continuing to drive himself and chose to give up his keys without any sort of indication who would pay for any potential accident. He assumed the risk of OP's poor driving...

You could also start talking about agency. Since the OP didn't borrow the car, rather, he was driving at the behest of its owner, OP could argue that he was the agent of the car owner and, therefore, the car owner is responsible for the unintentional damages he causes.

Lots of somewhat-applicable tort doctrine makes for a hairy case.


"This is nothing like the doctrine of assumption of risk."

I disagree. This isn't a textbook example of the doctrine, but it certainly could be argued to have some applicability here (see above). A wise previous commenter said: "I'm more impressed at how absolutist some of the answers are".
posted by toomuchpete at 7:21 PM on April 30, 2007


I am justly chastised. Just among we lawyers and near-lawyers, I think assumption of risk is an absolute defense, not a mere mitigation doctrine. Also it's normally in personal injury contexts, not property damage cases, and to my impression, usually about inherent risks in an activity as opposed to forewarned negligence. But these may be generalizations.

I think the OP is now bored to tears, and is thinking about paying even more to make this stop.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:32 PM on April 30, 2007


Related anecdote:

A couple years ago, a friend of mine gave his keys to DriverX because said friend has been drinking. DriverX had been drinking less (though I guess this is irrelevant for the story, because it didn't come up in court). We were in a different car. They were tailgating us. Our driver braked hard at a light. DriverX slammed into another car (totaling the car he was driving), which hit our car in turn.

DriverX believed he did not have to pay anything. The owner of the car took him to court. The judge found DriverX resonsible for 90% of the damages of the entire accident. The owner was only responsible for 10%, which was basically the cost of giving up his keys.

That might just be one case, one judge, but it does show that you as the driver are very likely legally responsible.
posted by changeling at 7:37 PM on April 30, 2007


"I think assumption of risk is an absolute defense, not a mere mitigation doctrine. Also it's normally in personal injury contexts, not property damage cases, and to my impression, usually about inherent risks in an activity as opposed to forewarned negligence. But these may be generalizations."

I agree with all of that. Although I would argue that there are some inherent risks in the activity of letting a bad driver drive your uninsured car. ;)


"That might just be one case, one judge, but it does show that you as the driver are very likely legally responsible."

Well... if it's just one case and just one judge, it really tells us nothing about what is likely. Legally, it probably depends far more on the jurisdiction, the fact finder, and the attorneys doing the arguing.

Nevertheless, talking about who is "legally" responsible -- while fun for those who, like me, have a sick fascination with such debates -- is pretty pointless if the OP is concerned about what he should do to keep his friendship. Not many friendships survive a lawsuit.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:57 PM on April 30, 2007


I was you in a similar situation, and it sucked. I crashed my friend's father's car, and he (as the owner of the vehicle, even though he wasn't even there) and I (the operator) were sued by the other driver. Not fun. Although his insurance paid for all of the legal defense...let this be a lesson to you- get the good insurance! Seriously! Maybe you'll never need it, but if you ever do, you'll be very glad you paid for the extra coverage.

Anyways, accidents happen, and anyone who hands over the keys to have a friend drive assumes the risk (in the layman's sense of the word) that an accident might just happen while said friend is driving. It could happen even if the friend is an excellent driver on familiar roads. I would say to offer to pay half, if you can afford it. You aren't under any obligation, but the offer would prevent either your friend secretly resenting you for not offering to pay or you feeling eternally guilty about the accident thus making future interactions awkward. This is assuming you both have realtively similar amounts of money. Friend may decline your offer, with the notion that the accident could have happened to him if he had been driving. Friend may need the money and accept your offer. I think if one of you were filthy rich and the other a pauper, the rich one should probably pay to make it easier.

I am sorry for this crappy situation- the best advice I can offer is to talk honestly with your friend about what he/she expects you to contribute.
posted by emd3737 at 8:27 PM on April 30, 2007


Look, your friendship with this person is important to you. It sounds like you don't have much money. Talk to your friend, tell him you want to do what you can. Then do as much as you can. Half of his out-of-pocket expenses sounds pretty fair if you can afford it, and if he can afford the other half. If one of you is sustantially more financially sound than the other, you might take that into consideration.
posted by theora55 at 8:45 PM on April 30, 2007


Pay nothing for this.

Buy him a year's insurance for his next car.
posted by flabdablet at 10:13 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


You break, you buy. It sucks and I'm really sorry this has happened to you, but as others have said it is an expensive lesson in assertiveness.

I think it's reasonable on a long road trip to expect to share the driving. If you had expectations otherwise, that should have been made clear before you left home. Also, I don't know if it's standard where you are, but I would never assume that someone had first party property insurance, although I would expect them to have third party property.
posted by Lucie at 6:43 PM on May 1, 2007


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