Who’s Liable For A Test-Driving Accident?

Last updated on: October 11, 2022

If you are involved in an accident with a car that was driven by an employee of a car dealership, there could be several responsible parties. If the dealership owned the car, then the dealership itself could be liable for the accident, particularly if an employee was driving the car as part of their employee responsibilities.

The liable party changes based on the facts of each case. That is why it’s always beneficial for victims to speak with an experienced attorney. 

Call (888) 671-5127 for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer at Zinda Law Group today.

What Happens If You Crash During A Test Drive?

There are a few possible outcomes if you crash during a test drive. You must determine which driver was at fault for the accident and what losses you suffered. You can then file a claim against the at-fault driver in order to be compensated for those losses.

However, if you were the driver at fault, then the victim can file a claim against you. In that case, speak with a lawyer who can help you understand your options.

There are also major differences in the outcome depending on whether you live in an at-fault state or a no-fault state. 

In an at-fault state, the at-fault driver’s insurance covers the damages resulting from the crash. If a third-party driver at fault does not have insurance, your insurance might have to cover your injuries from the crash.

In a no-fault state, each entity’s own insurance generally covers the damages incurred by the insured. That is, the dealership’s insurance covers damage to the dealership’s vehicle and your injury, and the third-party driver at-fault would pay for his or her medical bills for the damage to his or her own injuries.

Can I Be Held Liable If A Car Crash Occurs During The Test Drive?

Whether or not you will be held liable for the car accident depends on whether you were at fault. Drivers owe each other a duty of care on the road and are at fault for accidents when they violate that duty of care.

Drivers violate the duty of care by failing to follow the rules of the road. When you are test driving a car, regular traffic laws still apply: you can be ticketed or arrested if you violate the law. If you break a law while you are test driving and get into a crash, you violated your duty of care and can be held liable for the damage you cause.

You may have signed a waiver that claims to remove any liability from the dealership in the event of a crash. Usually, if you signed a waiver and you were not accompanied by a salesperson on the test drive, the dealership can still be held liable if you were visibly incompetent when you were handed the keys. If a salesperson did accompany you and you signed a waiver, the dealership could be held liable.

However, if you signed the waiver and no salesperson accompanied you on the drive, you could likely be held liable for an accident you caused. Even if you did not sign a waiver, you can be held liable for an accident if you drove negligently.

If a dealership wants you to sign a waiver, read the fine print. Ask if you must sign the waiver to test drive the car. Sometimes a dealership will care more about your comfort and willingness to buy a car there than enforcing the waiver.

What If The Accident Was Caused By The Employee Of The Dealership?

It is common practice for car dealerships to implement safeguards to avoid crashes. Juries can evaluate the typical test-driving practices of other dealerships to determine whether the dealership in your case met the appropriate standard of care. When dealerships do not use the proper amount of care to prevent foreseeable crashes, they might be liable for the resulting damage.

To protect the company from liability, many dealerships will scan the test driver’s driving license. However, dealerships do not usually request proof of insurance. This is because a driver might be buying their first car and not yet have car insurance.

Another precaution many dealerships take is having a salesperson go with the driver on the test drive. The dealership might even request that the salesperson guide the test driver along a specific, familiar route. This can help avoid hazardous conditions such as construction or higher-traffic areas.

Rarely, dealerships let the test driver take the car home overnight. This can complicate the question of fault, and you should speak with a personal injury lawyer about your case to learn how to proceed.

Finally, to prevent an accident, a dealership might prevent some drivers from test driving vehicles if that person does not possess a driver’s license; the person appears to be intoxicated; or the car is difficult to drive. If the car is rare or especially expensive, the dealership might be wary of people who just want to drive the car without any intention of purchasing it.

What Should I Do After A Test Drive Accident?

If you have been in an accident while on a test drive, you might be panicked and unsure of how to proceed. The following steps can help you navigate the fallout of the crash.

Stay Calm And Don’t Admit Fault

Admitting fault might not mean what you expect. While you should make sure the other drivers involved in the accident are not in need of emergency medical help, do not talk about how you contributed to the accident or even how you could have avoided the accident.

Notify Dealers

If you are not test driving the car with one of the dealership’s employees, immediately call the dealership and explain that there was an accident. However, avoid making an official statement. You might inadvertently say something that can be used against you in a determination of fault.

Take Photographs

Take pictures with your phone or other camera after the accident. Try to show the damage to the vehicles, where the accident occurred, and anything unusual about the accident scene, such as construction or poor weather conditions.

Check For Injuries

If you need emergency medical care for your injuries, call an ambulance before doing anything else. Your health takes priority over any of the previous steps.

If you do not think you have been seriously injured in the accident, you should still visit the doctor in a timely manner. When you visit the doctor, you can obtain proof that you suffered an injury and proof of the type of injury you received.

Who Pays For Your Damages If You Are Not At Fault?

If you are not at fault for the accident, you still must learn which party’s insurance will cover the accident. This will depend on who was at fault for the accident and whether all of the parties are covered under a policy.

The At-Fault Party’s Insurance

If another driver on the road caused the accident, then the dealership cannot hold you liable for the accident or make you pay for the harm to the dealership’s vehicle. The dealership (and you, if you suffered injuries from the crash) must sue the third party who caused the accident. The third party’s insurance will be responsible for paying the damages.

However, if the third party does not have insurance, then the dealership’s insurance will have to cover the damage to the vehicle. Similarly, your own health insurance will have to cover any medical expenses for the injuries you suffered.

Dealer’s Insurance

Car dealerships must carry insurance to protect the vehicles there. Additionally, the test driver is usually covered under the car dealership’s insurance policy when driving one of the dealership’s vehicles. Even if you are at fault for the accident, the dealership’s insurance may pay for the resulting damages.

If you caused a very small accident while test driving the car, the dealership might absorb the cost of the accident through its insurance policy in order to encourage you to buy a car from the dealership. However, if you are clearly at fault and caused a larger accident, the dealership may file a claim against you.

Do I Need A Lawyer After A Car Accident?

Because of the nature of insurance companies and the complication of the legal process, you could greatly benefit from a lawyer’s expertise after you have been in a car accident. An attorney can help decrease the risks of missing court deadlines, failing to raise appropriate objections, allowing the insurance companies and the defendant to poke holes in your claim, and settling for too low of an amount.

At Zinda Law Group, we offer potential clients a free consultation. During the consultation, we can ask you about the facts of your case and answer your questions about the legal process. After the consultation, the attorney can typically let you know if you should pursue your claim and what strategy you should use.

Compensation For Damages After An Injury

As the victim of a car crash, you could be entitled to economic damages, non-economic damages, and maybe punitive damages. Economic damages are meant to reimburse you for the financial loss you suffered because of the accident. That includes your medical expenses, missed wages from time you had to take off work, and damage to your personal property.

Non-economic damages can be more difficult to determine since they are not calculable, but an experienced personal injury attorney can help you pinpoint an appropriate amount in your case. Non-economic damages are for the pain and suffering you experienced from the accident. That can include loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical pain, and mental suffering.

In rare instances, it is appropriate for courts to award punitive damages to punish the person or company that caused the accident to happen. This helps deter the person or company from allowing similar accidents to occur in the future.

Need Help? Contact Zinda Law Group Today

Speak with an attorney to learn about the compensation available in your case. Our lawyers at Zinda Law Group are passionate about helping victims like you and want to help you pursue maximum compensation. 

Zinda Law Group operates with a no win no fee guarantee. Call (888) 671-5127 to schedule your 100 percent free consultation today.