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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.
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.
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 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.