There are no Car-Insurance Loopholes or Do-Overs

Question: Is there a way to make a claim for something even if there is a restriction or exclusion against it in my policy?  For example, if my 16-year-old crashed my car and my policy excludes drivers under the age of 21, can I still make a claim for my car's damages?

Answer:  Policy exclusions and restrictions are for real. If your auto insurance policy says you're not covered for something, believe it. There may be cases where a court decides otherwise, but in most instances if the language of your auto insurance policy is clear and adheres to state insurance laws, the exclusions or restrictions will hold up in court.

If your policy says you're not covered for drivers under the age of 21, car-sharing, business use or excluded drivers, then you're not covered for those situations. If you let your 16-year-old child drive the car, you both will be held personally liable for any damages he caused, and any damage to your own car isn't covered, even if you have collision and comprehensive coverage.

Car insurance policies can have a multitude of exclusions and restrictions, many that you may not pay attention to because they don't presently concern you.

For instance, your policy likely excludes coverage if you use your car for business purposes. It may not affect you now, but if your teenager got a job delivering pizzas it could void your policy since the car would be used for the delivery of goods.  (See "Why the pizza guy doesn't have car insurance") Or perhaps your spouse is without a license, so you signed a named driver exclusion form that specifically excludes him from being covered by your car insurance policy. If he resolves his licensing issues and get a valid license, you need to inform the insurance company and drop the exclusion or else when he drives he will be doing so without coverage.

Not following the terms of your auto policy puts you in a precarious place.

If you drive, or allow others to drive, against the restrictions and they are in an accident, then you can be held personally responsible for the damages caused to others if your state-mandated liability coverages don't extend to the situation. Medical expenses from bodily injuries caused in an auto accident can easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. A multiple-vehicle accident or an accident with just one very expensive car that ends up not being covered by your policy could easily wipe out your savings.

If your current car insurance policy doesn't cover your needs, then don't try to bend the rules. Instead, shop around for a policy that will cover your child, your delivery job, or whatever your situation is. Insuring a teenager is expensive, but not as expensive as paying out of pocket to cover an uninsured accident. Make sure you shop around. rates for your young driver can vary by hundreds of dollars, even thousands, from company to company. (See "A parent's guide to insuring a teen driver")

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