Handing over your keys to a friend might not seem like a big deal, but there can actually be serious legal consequences for lending other people your car.
Although it’s not an offence by itself to lend anyone your car, there have been cases that might make you think twice about it.
What happens if your car is involved in a crime?
If your trusted friend is involved in a crime, such as a police pursuit, it is easy to see how you might become a suspect.
Or if they take it upon themselves to use drugs and leave some behind, you could potentially be charged with drug possession.
Fortunately though, in both of those situations you can often avoid a conviction by bringing the true situation to the attention of authorities.
If you are suspected of certain major traffic offences, police are able to demand that you disclose the identity of the driver at the time. Once you disclose the driver’s identity, police should then pursue the culprit.
In the case of suspected drug possession, you (or your lawyer) can write to police advising that you did not have “exclusive possession” of the car; in which case you may be able to have the charges withdrawn, or thrown out of court if police go ahead with the case against you anyway.
What happens if I get an infringement notice in the mail?
If your trusted friend runs a red light or gets caught by a speed camera, the fine will be sent to you.
Once you receive the fine, you should fill out the attached statutory declaration advising that you were not the driver at the time, and identifying the true offender.
Is my insurance void if they crash?
Your insurance company may not cover all of the circumstances whereby another driver has an accident in your car, particularly if they were driving whilst suspended, or driving at high speed, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
This could mean that you may not receive an insurance payout, and may even be sued for personal injury if someone was hurt.
Whether or not your insurance company will pay will depend on the policy itself. If they do pay your claim, the company will normally seek to recover the amount from the driver responsible.
What happens if my car is stolen?
Due to the prevalence of car theft and associated crime, the NSW government now expects you to help stop such offences from occurring.
It is therefore an offence under Regulation 213 of the NSW Road Rules 2014 to keep the key in the ignition of your car, or to leave doors or windows unlocked if you are more than 3 metres away and no one aged 16 years or over is inside the vehicle. The maximum penalty is a $2,200 fine.
If the theft of your car was partly caused by your own negligence, the insurance company may refuse to pay out all or part of your claim.
If you are facing criminal charges through no fault of your own, an experienced criminal lawyer will be able to advise you of your options and the best way forward.