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Ask the Car Insurance Expert

I was operating a friend's vehicle and was involved in an accident. Whose insurance do we proceed through? Would that be my insurance or the policyholder's insurance?

In general, your friend's insurance policy would provide the primary coverage. A car insurance policy covers the vehicle, its owner and anyone the owner allows to borrow the car. (However, there is one exception, a relative who's living with the vehicle owner would have to be listed on the policy for coverage.)

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Your friend's liability insurance would cover damage to others up to the liability limits of the policy if you were at fault for the accident. Your insurance would kick in if the cost exceeded your friend's insurance limits. In some cases the cost of an accident is shared by both insurance companies in what's known as "pro rata." But in the latter case, your friend's insurer would pay out first and then seek payment from your insurance company.

What about repairs to your friend's vehicle?

Coverage for any damage to your friend's car depends on your friend's car insurance coverage. Your friend would need collision coverage in order for repairs to be paid for by the insurer.

Car insurance includes several components, including:

  1. Bodily injury and property damage liability
  2. Medical payments or personal injury protection (PIP)
  3. Collision
  4. Comprehensive
  5. Uninsured/underinsured motorist
  6. Extras, such as roadside assistance

Liability coverage, which is required for drivers in all states except New Hampshire, covers only the damage the driver does to others.

Collision and comprehensive coverage are optional. Collision pays for damage from an accident to the policyholder's car, and comprehensive pays for damage to the policyholder's car from causes other than car accidents, such as theft, vandalism, natural disasters, falling objects and collisions with animals. To save money on car insurance rates, drivers sometimes forgo collision and comprehensive coverage, particularly if their cars have little resale value.

Call your insurance agent whenever you're in doubt about your car insurance policy, and make sure you understand coverage issues before you lend your car to anyone or borrow a friend's car.

For more, see when your friend crashes your car: the rules of auto liability.

Last updated: Mar. 9, 2011
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