Man at the scene of a car accident calling friend
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In North Dakota, as in many other states, the concept of vicarious liability can come into play when a friend borrows your car and is involved in an accident. Vicarious liability can hold the owner of the vehicle responsible for the actions of the person driving with their permission. The idea is rooted in the belief that the owner has entrusted their vehicle to someone else, and as such, they can share in the responsibility for any ensuing consequences.

You should also be aware of the permissive use doctrine that North Dakota follows. Under this doctrine, if you give someone permission to use your car, and they use it within the scope of that permission, you could be held liable for their actions. Whether your friend is running errands, going on a road trip, or using your car for any purpose you have allowed, the permissive use doctrine can extend liability to you as the vehicle owner if your friend gets in an accident.

There are also insurance considerations that need to be addressed. Most auto insurance policies in North Dakota will provide coverage that extends to permissive users. This offers a layer of protection for you as the owner. However, the specifics can vary between policies and it is crucial for you to review your insurance coverage to understand the extent of protection.

While the permissive use doctrine generally holds, certain exceptions may absolve the owner of liability. If, for instance, your friend uses your car for purposes outside the agreed-upon scope, engages in illegal activities, or is explicitly prohibited from driving your vehicle, these circumstances might limit or eliminate your liability.

To minimize the potential for liability when lending your car to a friend, consider taking the following steps to protect yourself:

  • Communicate the scope of permission and any restrictions on use.
  • Ensure that your friend has a valid driver’s license.
  • Verify that your friend has their insurance coverage.
  • Regularly review and update your auto insurance policy to ensure adequate coverage.

Contact Our North Dakota Personal Injury Attorneys for a Free Consultation

Understanding when you could be held liable for damages incurred in a motor vehicle accident is important for all drivers. It may be surprising to find that you could be liable even if you were nowhere near your vehicle when the accident happened! If you or a loved one has suffered harm in an accident, you can count on the team at Pringle & Herigstad to be your steadfast advocates. Contact us today.