Every state has its own insurance code, and every code requires that driver's carry some form of liability coverage. Generally, an automobile insurance policy cover a driver if they carelessly cause an injury to another motorist, or to a pedestrian. However, every insurance contract includes "exclusions." Here are some examples of common exclusions that may cause problems in asserting a claim against a careless Washington motorist.
Insurance contracts will commonly exclude from coverage any liability that results from harm that was "caused intentionally." However, many courts are apt to interpret these provisions strictly. For example, a court might require that this language cover both the behavior that caused the injury, and the actual injury itself. For example, a driver may be involved in a road rage incident, and had every intention of colliding with another vehicle. However, the driver may not have contemplated the harm he or she caused, and as a result, the resulting injury may be covered.
Injury to Employee
Some auto insurance policies make a distinction between private use and use of the car by an employee. These kinds of exclusions are usually found in business auto insurance policies. The reason for these exclusions is that an employee, who is injured in a collision, will have a workers' compensation claim. Many times, the issue is not whether not the exclusion is valid, but instead, whether the person involved in the collision was actually an "employee." Again, this probably has more to do with strictly construing the insurance policy, including definitions.
Business Use of Car
Sometimes, a policy will exclude any liability arising from a "commercial" use of a private vehicle. More commonly, however, policy language will include a "regular use" of a "non-owned vehicle" exclusion. For example, if you work for an employer who regularly provides a vehicle for your use, your auto policy may exclude any coverage arising from the use of this so-called company car.
An automobile policy may exclude coverage for liability if the driver was below a certain age, usually 25 years. Many times, there are other conditions attached to exclusions for drivers under certain age. For example, if the actual named insured on the policy is under age 25, obviously, that person will be covered. Other conditions include language requiring that the younger driver not be a resident of the insured's residence, or that the younger driver not have regular access to the covered vehicle.
Whether the careless driver is covered by the liability insurance policy is obviously important because it may be the only available source a recovery for an injured motorist. These exclusions also illustrate the importance of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
Whenever a coverage issue arises, we review the applicable policy and appropriate case law to see whether the exclusion actually applies. Even with the various insurance code requirements, auto liability insurance language varies from policy to policy. If you have been in a collision, and are facing coverage issues in Washington or Oregon, call us at 503-325-8600 with your questions. We know our way around auto insurance policies.