Colburn Law

No Fees Unless We Win   206-919-3215

click for free consultation

Test-Drive Accidents: Who Is Liable?

Colburn Law

Test-Drive Accidents: Who Is Liable?

If you are in the market for a new vehicle, you know how important a test drive can be. These opportunities allow you to operate a prospective vehicle before you decide to purchase it, allowing you to gain a better understanding of whether or not the car is right for you. However, accidents can occur during a test drive, and depending on the circumstances of the crash, the dealership may attempt to hold you liable for the accident.

How Do Test-Drive Accidents Happen?

Test-drive accidents, while not common, can occur under various circumstances, often catching drivers off-guard. Understanding how these incidents happen is crucial for determining who is financially responsible for the crash. 

Some of the most common causes of test-drive accidents include:

  • Inexperience with the Vehicle: Many test-drive accidents result from the driver’s unfamiliarity with the vehicle. New cars often come with advanced features and different handling characteristics, which can be challenging for a first-time driver.
  • Distracted Driving: Distractions during a test drive, such as adjusting the radio, using a phone, or conversing with the salesperson, can lead to accidents. Drivers should always keep their attention on the road to prevent these incidents.
  • Mechanical Failures: Occasionally, mechanical issues with the test vehicle, such as brake failure or steering problems, can cause accidents. These incidents highlight the importance of dealerships maintaining their fleet in top condition.
  • High-Speed Maneuvers: Some drivers may perform risky maneuvers to test the vehicle’s capabilities, like speeding or sharp turns, leading to accidents. It’s vital to remember that safety should always come first, even during a test drive.
  • Traffic Violations: Running red lights, ignoring stop signs, or other traffic violations during a test drive can lead to accidents. Adhering to traffic laws is essential, regardless of the excitement of driving a new car.

Dealership Liability and Test-Drive Accidents

Accidents involving dealership cars are often treated in the same way as accidents with rental cars. Although you may not technically own the vehicle, you may face accusations of liability from the dealership if you are in a test-drive accident.

Most car dealerships have an insurance policy that provides coverage to the vehicles under their control. In many cases, the dealership will use its insurance policy to pay for the cost of repairs during an accident. If it believes the accident is your fault, however, the dealership may try to hold you liable for the cost of these repairs. In these situations, you may need to prove that you did not cause the accident or use your personal insurance policy to pay for the damage.

Washington’s Fault Insurance Laws

Like most states, Washington operates on a fault insurance system. This means that any driver who is responsible for an accident must pay for the damages incurred by the victims of that accident. If you are test-driving a vehicle and collide with another driver, your first step to determining liability is to identify who was at fault.

If the other driver is responsible for the crash, he or she will be liable for your damages. You may pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver to collect compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you suffered due to the accident.

This situation also applies if you are in an accident with a person who is test-driving a vehicle. If he or she is responsible for the crash, you will either pursue a claim against the at-fault driver or under the dealership’s insurance policy, if applicable.

The dealership may be liable for your injuries if you can prove that negligent entrustment took place. This concept applies if you are in an accident with a test driver and a car dealership representative was not inside of the vehicle at the time of the crash. The dealership could be liable if it knew or should have known that the driver was incompetent, careless, or reckless, but allowed him or her to go on a test drive anyway. For example, if the driver was visibly intoxicated but still allowed to complete a test drive, the dealership would be liable for your resulting injuries.

How to Prove a Test-Drive Accident Claim

When pursuing a claim for a test-drive accident, you must prove a series of facts, known as elements, to establish the at-fault party’s liability. Your attorney can help you gather enough evidence to substantiate each of the following:

  • Duty of Care: First, you must establish that the defendant (such as the dealership or another driver) owed you a duty of care. This means that they were responsible for ensuring the safety of the test-drive environment.
  • Breach of Duty: Next, you must prove that the defendant breached this duty. This could be through negligent maintenance of the vehicle, allowing an unqualified driver to test drive, or any other action that falls short of the expected standard of care.
  • Causation: Then, you must establish a direct link between the breach of duty and the accident. It’s not enough to show that the defendant was negligent; you must also prove that this negligence directly caused the accident and your subsequent injuries.
  • Damages: Finally, you must demonstrate that you suffered actual damages due to the accident. This could include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs.

What Compensation Can You Recover in Your Claim?

In a test-drive accident claim, the compensation you can recover largely depends on the specifics of your case. Typically, the liable party will be financially responsible for:

  • Medical expenses, which can range from immediate emergency treatment to long-term rehabilitation costs
  • Lost wages, compensating for the time you were unable to work due to your injuries and any reduction in your earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering, which acknowledges the emotional and physical impact of the accident and its effect on your quality of life
  • Property damage, helping repair or replace any personal possessions that were broken in the crash

It can be difficult to understand the full scope of compensation, so it is important to consult with an attorney who can evaluate your situation and calculate your potential award. A Washington car accident lawyer can help you explore all possible avenues to compensation, leaving no stone unturned in your journey to recovery.

What to Do After a Test-Drive Accident in Washington

Test-drive accidents can be painful and severe, leading to serious injuries and losses. Since the claims process for these collisions is so complex, it is important to remain calm, seek immediate help, and preserve as much evidence as you safely can.

Immediately after the collision, take the following steps.

  • Call 911 and report the accident to law enforcement.
  • Seek medical attention and save all records related to your treatment.
  • Exchange contact information with any witnesses in the area.
  • Exchange license, insurance, and contact information with the other driver.
  • Collect the dealership’s contact information and inform the dealership of the accident.
  • Contact a Washington car accident attorney as soon as possible.

Contacting a Seattle car accident lawyer after a test-drive accident is a crucial step in the claims process. Your attorney can thoroughly investigate the collision, determine which forms of compensation you may be eligible for, and inform you of your legal options. Contact your attorney as soon as possible to discuss your next steps.

Additional Information & Resources