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Here's the story, please bear with me: July 2012: My co-worker's car had just broke down and he was looking to purchase a new one so he can get to work. At the time I had an extra car and decided to be nice and sell it to him in hopes of saving him some money and lost work hours from car searching. I told him to test drive it to see if he likes it. He took it for a spin and later on, called me to tell me he got into an accident. At this point we were both in a state of panic, neither him or I knew what to do. He told me to call my insurance to report the accident and file a claim. Despite the car being registered to me, I refused to because I wasn't the driver and he was not listed in the policy, therefore, I feel I should not get involved. Somehow (I'm assuming) he looked through my glove compartment and found my auto insurance info and probably called in to report the accident to my insurance company, or perhaps exchanged insurance info with the other party and they reported it. Eventually, my insurance company called me and spoke with me regarding the incident. I explained to them the selling of the car, the test drive, my co-worker being the driver at time of accident because he showed interested in buying, and that I was not at the scene of the accident nor did I have anything to do with it. They then told me they have everything they need and if they needed anything else, they will phone me. Since that call, I've yet to hear from them again. Here we are 1.5 years later, (assuming the case was settled and everything is now ok) I get served with some court paper. The other party is suing me and my co-worker for $1,070,000 (??? WTF!!!) How do I fix this? Will I get jailed or am I obligated to pay even though I'm not the driver? Please help, this is stressing me out and I do not know what to do. Thanks a million in advanced. FYI: -Not sure if my co-worker called his insurance company at the time (was he supposed to) -Since I wasn't the one to call in to my insurance to file the claim, can I "unfile" it? -I'm no longer with said auto insurance, am I sh*t out of luck? Will they still help me resolve the situation? Are they obligated to? -Accident took place in CA. Maine laws different from others??? -My co-worker does not live CA, he lives in Idaho and came to help out in Maine for the 2012 summer -His phone number changed so I can't get a hold of him. I do have his Address though, will this be of any help to courts, insurance co., etc.? -Despite the car being registered to me, will I be able to get out of this mess because I wasn't the driver? Again, thanks a million.
Insurance follows the car, and when you loan your car, you are loaning your insurance coverage. As owner of the car you are responsible for the damages and injuries caused by your car, regardless of who was driving. You got yourself into this mess. No good deed goes unpunished.
You should hire a lawyer who could defend you, not really to prove that you weren't involve in the accident, but to simply lessen the charges you could get. Let a lawyer handle your case so that you will know what you should do in this auto accident. Obi Wan was right but there's a way out, only your lawyer can tell you.
What Obi said except.... Since your friend was a permissive user, he's an insured under your policy. So the driver gets coverage under your policy. The driver _is_ responsible but he's getting insurance from your policy (rightfully so). Most likely your carrier made an offer which was rejected by the other party. The other person filed suit to pursue a higher recovery. There is a 99.9% chance that this case will be settled for within your policy limits. Plaintiff's always put wild crazy numbers down for their demand as there is no point not to. I can't count the number of times I've seen demands for $1,000,000 settle for something like $20,000.
Slow down and breathe a little. No the laws in California aren't any different from the laws anywhere else, and no you don't want to un-file this claim with your insurer. You want to hand those lawsuit papers over to your insurer (the insurer you had at the time of the accident) and that's it for now. Here's your problem: You owned the vehicle, therefore you had the accident. Doesn't matter who was driving, the owner is responsible for any loss or damage their vehicle causes. The driver had a valid licence and your permission to drive, meaning you agreed to take responsibility for any accidents while he was driving. You didn't know that when you let him drive the vehicle, but you know it now. The driver isn't responsible for accident damage, the owner is. Your insurer at the time will respond to the lawsuit, because they're obligated to do so. They'll appoint a lawyer to defend the case and negotiate with the other party, and they'll probably offer a settlement to avoid going to trial (they're allowed to do that). If they need you, they know where to find you. If they need the driver, they'll find him. This is what you bought insurance for, so let them handle it. Their claims department doesn't know or care that you're with another insurer now, they were your insurer when the accident happened so they'll respond to this claim. Forget about your co-worker's insurer, and forget about getting out of this. This is your accident to deal with legally, and there is no way out.
Obi Wan Knievel's answer sums up the circumstances pretty well. Remember, it will pass but will keep you tense for the time being. Don't over-stress and damage your health. Good luck.