Therefore, a very basic and often incorrect answer to the wrong question is that auto liability coverage generally follows the driver, while auto physical damage coverage generally follows the vehicle. However, more often than not, you will be asking the wrong question. As long as a driver has the vehicle owner’s permission to operate the vehicle, the owner’s policy will provide coverage no matter who the driver is. The vehicle owner’s policy should cover injuries and property damage. However, exceptions do exist. In most cases, therefore, the right question to ask would be “Is there insurance coverage under these specific facts?”


In order for insurance to cover an accident when the insured is not present, there will need to be comprehensive auto coverage. The facts of each such case definitely matter. If the driver is a relative, then most likely the absent insured’s insurance will cover the accident. The driver also needs to have had permission, express or implied, or the insured’s insurance may not cover the claim, unless the vehicle was stolen. Individual insurance companies and policies may vary in regard to these rules.
Liability insurance coverage on a personal auto policy follows the driver no matter whose vehicle is being operated, provided it is an eligible vehicle. All states, except for one (New Hampshire), require at least liability coverage. Liability coverage protects the insured (i.e., follows the driver) when the insured operates a vehicle owned by someone else. In such a situation, they will still usually be covered under their own auto insurance policy. However, the best rule of thumb in looking for coverage under a policy is to begin with the exclusions.
Certain factors must be considered in determining if an insured is covered when driving someone else’s vehicle, including the reasons for driving the vehicle, if the insured had permission or not, or if it was a rental or dealership loaner. In each case, the individual circumstances and state law involved will factor into the outcome, but another policy might be considered primary over the insured’s.
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