Many drivers assume that their auto insurance policy provides wider coverage than it actually does. Unless you have purchased comprehensive coverage for your car, there may be several situations under which you have no coverage. You can find these exclusions to your coverage in your insurance agreement: a lengthily and often hard to understand document that details the exact extent of your insurance company’s coverage.
Understand Your Insurance Agreement to Avoid Exclusion Issues
Because auto insurance exclusions figure within a signed agreement between you and the insurance company, it is very difficult to contest an exclusion. Not having read or understood the insurance agreement is generally not a viable excuse unless your insurance agreement is ambiguously worded.
In some rare cases, policyholders have successfully argued that an exclusion violated public policy. In these cases, the policyholders were able to get the coverage they wanted—but at the price of lengthily and costly litigation with insurance companies.
For this reason, it’s best to read your insurance agreement carefully before doing any activities that may expose you to liability or financial loss. If you find an exclusion or other clause that you do not agree with, you can call your insurance agent or company to request additional coverage.
The Main Types of Auto Insurance Exclusions
An exclusion can apply to any situation in which your insurance company will deny coverage. There can be many kinds of exclusions, but the most common ones are outlined below.
If someone in your household has a bad driving record, you may have to pay high rates for liability coverage for your car, because the insurance company will assume that other members of your household will drive your car. But if you exclude that driver from the insurance coverage, you can pay lower rates. This is called a named driver exclusion. The consequence is that the named driver should under no circumstances drive your car.
Some auto insurance policies may include a “commercial operations exclusion,” that will result in a denial of coverage if you get into an accident while using your vehicle for a commercial purpose. While you may not be able to get coverage from your auto insurance company, it is likely that your business insurance would apply in this case.
Unless you have comprehensive vehicle coverage, your insurance policy will probably not cover damage to your car resulting from intentional acts or natural disasters. Thus, if your car gets vandalized or damaged in a flood, you may not be able to recover for your lose. It bears repeating, however, that every policy is different. Read your insurance agreement to learn exactly the extent of your coverage.
When an Exclusion Violates Public Policy
In 2013, the Illinois Supreme Court heard a case involving an auto insurance policy exclusion clause that violated public policy. In this case, an individual signed an insurance agreement that named her, the primary policyholder, as the excluded driver. Possibly because of her lack of sophistication, she did not understand the consequences of this exclusion: although she was paying for auto insurance, she effectively had no liability coverage.
The excluded driver eventually caused an accident resulting in one death and a serious injury. Her insurance company refused to pay the damages. When the case arrived before the Supreme Court, the question was whether it was good public policy to permit an insurance company to exclude the primary policyholder from coverage. The court concluded that such an exclusion clause was contrary to public policy and defied the meaning of a relevant section of the Illinois Insurance Code.
If you think your insurance agreement includes an unfair exclusion clause, remember that it is extremely rare for a court to strike down such a clause as violating public policy. Nevertheless, if you have concerns about your auto insurance policy, you can give the attorneys from Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. a call at (312) 236-2900 for a free consultation of your case.