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Attorney Van O'Steen

Car Pool Drivers Need Adequate Insurance to Cover Accident Risk

Van O'Steen

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Ride sharing makes very good sense. It is economically and environmentally sound when done regularly. Co-workers, for example, who ride to and from work together save money for themselves and make a contribution to cleaner air for us all.

Unfortunately, car-pooling is not without risks. Those risks, however, can be minimized.

The potential problem arises from the law that makes careless drivers responsible for any injury to their passengers.

In most cases, if a driver causes or contributes to an accident in which his or her passengers are injured, the driver will be liable for all or some portion of the injuries to the passengers.

In other words, if you, as a car-pool driver, cause an accident, your passengers may sue you for their injuries and other damages. The passengers must show that you in some way were careless in your driving and that your carelessness caused or contributed to their injuries. If they can show this, you may be held legally responsible.

I mentioned this risk could be minimized. This can be done by insuring yourself against the risk of causing injury to others. Be sure you have adequate levels of automobile liability insurance.

Limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident should be considered minimum levels for most people. It also would be wise to have auto medical payments coverage of at least $25,000 per person.

Serving as a car-pool driver does not expand your legal liability for personal injuries beyond what it is as a driver generally. Your responsibility to your passengers is always the same, whether you are driving as a part of an organized car-pool or just out to dinner with friends.

For this reason, adequate levels of insurance are advisable under all circumstances. With a regular flow of passengers, however, you are increasing the risk as you increase the numbers.

If your car-pooling arrangement involves accepting money from some passengers, for gas or otherwise, you should request written confirmation from your auto insurance company that this practice will not affect your coverage in the event of an injury accident. Some insurance policies contain provisions that exclude coverage for what is referred to as "ride for hire" situations.

Car-pooling is a good practice. So is buying adequate insurance.