In most cases, the driver during a vehicle test drive is responsible for damages in an accident under his/her auto liability insurance policy.
Liability for Test Drive Accidents
When looking for a new or used car, drivers commonly take various vehicles for test drives before making a purchase. While some drivers are more experienced behind the wheel than others, unfamiliarity with the vehicle, visual distractions, and a salesperson in the passenger seat often contribute to anxiety and higher accident risks.
When a driver has a car accident on a test drive, the driver is usually responsible for damages through his/her personal liability auto insurance, up to certain limits outlined in the policy. When injuries occur in a test drive, accident lawyers often see claims filed by injured parties against the driver’s insurance company. However, liability in some cases may fall on the car dealership that owns the vehicle, depending on state laws where the dealership operates.
The Majority Rule
Most states, including Indiana, follow the majority rule that a dealership is not liable for a car accident if a salesperson is not in the car during the test drive. However, under the legal theory of negligent entrustment, liability will likely be imposed on the dealership if the salesperson was aware of potential dangers like an expired driver’s license, no insurance, driving impairment, or risky driving behaviors, even though the salesperson did not accompany the test drive. That said, a car dealership is not legally obligated to investigate a test driver’s competence.
In most states, car dealerships carry fleet insurance coverage for all vehicles on the car lot. If a test drive accident occurs, the dealership’s fleet insurance policy is likely to cover the test driver, as well as damages caused by the accident regardless of who is at fault.
Other Driver’s Auto Insurance
If another driver on the road caused the accident due to negligent driving behaviors, the test driver will not be held liable for damages. Instead, the car dealership will make a claim against the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance to collect compensation for property damages and injuries.
When a test driver negligently causes an accident, he/she will always be held liable for damages. An accident lawyer can work with the driver’s insurance company on injury claims and settlement negotiations. If the test driver is uninsured, accident victims will most likely turn to the car dealership for compensation.