Virtually every driver in the United States must purchase and maintain auto insurance coverage in accordance with state laws for minimum coverage requirements. A fault-based state may require a certain amount of bodily injury, total accident, and property damage liability coverage. A no-fault state will require drivers to carry personal injury protection for use after an accident, regardless of who caused it. Policyholders should know the full terms of coverage with their policies, including when their policies cover other drivers.
Determining Covered Drivers
Typically, an auto insurance policy for a vehicle will apply to all members of the policyholder’s household unless specifically excluded by the terms of the policy. For example, the policy may extend coverage when the policyholder’s spouse drives the covered vehicle, but not the teenage son or daughter who just earned a driver’s license. Coverage for an individual may vary depending on the age, residence, and relationship to the policyholder.
If a policy extends to members of the policyholder’s household, the insurance carrier will very likely require all members of the household to sign on to the policy as covered drivers. This coverage will only apply to those individuals, and you or the insurance carrier may amend coverage as needed in most cases. However, this coverage would not extend to other drivers unless your policy dictates otherwise.
What Is Permissive Use?
Some auto insurance policies follow anyone who is permitted to use your vehicle. For example, if your auto insurance policy includes a permissive use clause, you can let your friend or relative visiting for the weekend use your car and your coverage will apply for that driver. Auto insurance coverage almost always follows the vehicle.
Your auto insurance coverage acts as primary coverage whenever your vehicle becomes involved in an accident the driver of your vehicle caused. For example, if your friend has his or her own insurance policy but you allow him or her to borrow your vehicle, your auto insurance would act as primary coverage for the damages and his or her policy would cover any remainder. If the other driver caused the accident, his or her coverage would apply, and you would not face any liability.
Excluded Drivers and Non-Coverable Events
Most auto insurance carriers make it very clear when and how their available coverage applies, and that often involves delineating excluded or non-coverable drivers and events in the terms of an auto insurance policy. If you did not give an excluded driver permission to use the vehicle, it is possible to avoid liability for the damages in an accident the excluded driver caused, but this is not always a sure thing. For example, an auto insurance policy would not cover damages caused by a clearly excluded driver, but a policyholder would not be liable for damages caused by non-permissive use, such as someone stealing the covered vehicle.
Carefully examine an auto insurance policy before signing on for coverage. Look for any excluded drivers and think of the people who you would potentially allow to drive your vehicle. If you plan to teach your teenage son or daughter how to drive, your auto insurance policy should cover members of your household including drivers with learners’ permits. You should also use caution before allowing anyone to use your vehicle; make sure the driver qualifies for coverage under the terms of your policy or you risk absorbing liability for damages they cause in an accident.
If you have questions about your auto insurance policy, an attorney is a fantastic resource. An attorney can examine the terms of your policy and help you determine which drivers have coverage under the terms of the policy. After any accident involving a covered vehicle, speak with a car accident lawyer in Charleston about your claim before accepting any settlement offer from an insurance company.