Who’s Responsible for a Car Accident During a Test Drive in San Diego?

Test driving a vehicle from a dealership is a common practice for those shopping around for a new or used car, and with around 13.6 million new cars sold each year, that’s a lot of test drives. However, accidents can and do happen even during short test drives. So, who is responsible when a test drive goes wrong and an accident occurs?

Here’s a breakdown for San Diego drivers.

The Test Driver Typically Assumes Initial Liability

In most cases, the person who was driving the dealership’s car during the test drive assumes initial liability for an accident. Even though it is not their own vehicle, the driver is still operating the vehicle and thus responsible for exercising reasonable care and caution on public roadways. A test driver can be held responsible for things like:

  • Traffic infractions or violations like running a red light or stop sign – in 2021, around 127k people were injured in red light crashes.
  • Speeding or driving aggressively – 29% of all traffic fatalities in 2021 were speeding-related.
  • Distracted driving like texting or eating – 3,000 people die in each year in accidents caused by distracted drivers.
  • Hitting another vehicle, object or pedestrian – pedestrian fatalities account for 17% of crash-related fatalities.

If the test driver was clearly at fault due to negligent driving habits, they and/or their insurance company would likely bear responsibility for injuries, vehicle damage, and other accident-related costs.

But Liability Can Shift with Dealership Negligence

Though the test driver assumes initial liability, responsibility can shift back to the dealership if certain conditions are met. Specifically, a dealership may share in accident liability if:

  • One of their employees was coaching the test driver but gave poor driving instructions that contributed to the accident
  • They allowed an obviously incompetent driver to test drive the vehicle despite red flags
  • They failed to provide correct information about the vehicle’s features and handling
  • The vehicle had an undisclosed defect or maintenance issue that caused the accident

In these cases, the dealership may face a lawsuit for enabling the accident through negligence. The test driver’s responsibility could be reduced or waived accordingly.

Insurance Coverage Comes into Play

Insurance coverage is a crucial part of determining financial responsibility after a dealership test drive goes awry and is something your San Diego car accident attorney will look at. Specifically:

  • The dealer’s insurance generally covers cars on test drives. If they are liable, their insurance pays.
  • The test driver’s car insurance may also provide liability coverage for a test drive accident, depending on policy specifics.
  • If both parties are partly liable, damages may be split according to local laws.

Of course, details vary case by case. But in San Diego, having ample insurance protection on both sides can help smooth negotiations and claim resolutions after an unfortunate test drive accident.

Assess Each Accident Individually

Ultimately, every test drive accident has unique circumstances that inform who assumes liability. Dealerships should properly screen drivers, provide instructions, and disclose vehicle handling details during test drives. Meanwhile, drivers must remain focused and avoid negligent habits behind the wheel.

Still, accidents can happen even when both parties follow best practices. In such cases, legal experts in San Diego advocate assessing each incident individually when determining shared responsibility and apportioning damages fairly to all at-fault parties involved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *