Regular Use Exemption Leaves Drivers Uninsured

Buying auto insurance shouldn’t be like Russian Roulette, but sometimes it is.

How a company applies a common exclusion found in all automobile policies makes a big difference in the value you receive. The exclusion is referred to as “the available for regular use” exemption. It is designed prevent you from covering multiple cars you own or use at our discretion by buying a single policy on one car.

One insurance company interprets this exclusion so broadly that it leaves its insureds uncovered in common situations like carpools, buses, including school buses, and ride share arrangements. This exclusion can deny you and family members liability, underinsured Motorist (UIM) and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverages.

State Farm is aggressively pursuing exclusion of coverage under the “available for regular use” exclusion found in all auto policies. Who would expect this exclusion to extend to a ride share, van or carpool, your kids on the school bus or while visiting a non-custodial parent for the weekend? It can even apply to a ride to school with a friend or relative or a bus, even a taxi.

Recent cases in which denial was threatened or actually occurred include the following.

  1. A food bank manager preferred riding the bus to work over driving her car. State Farm denied her PIP and Under insured motorist coverage when an uninsured motorist hit the bus she was riding on injuring her knee.
  2. A college student was denied PIP and UIM coverage for injuries sustained while riding to school with his roommate. The student had never driven the roommate’s car, did not have a key or other access to the vehicle. In State Farm’s eyes the fact he rode in the car every other day 4 days a week made he car “available for his regular use” and thus not covered, unless he took out a policy on it too, which isn’t possible.
  3. A daughter driving her mother to a medical appointment in her mother’s car was denied coverage under her own UIM and PIP polices on the basis that driving her mother to her weekly doctor’s appointments was “regular use” of the mother’s car.
  4. A young woman was denied PIP and UIM coverage for injuries sustained in a crash while riding with her boyfriend, with whom she did not live. The basis was that because he always drove on their dates his car was available for her regular use.
  5. A child was denied UIM and PIP coverage while riding with his father. Father had visitation one or two days a week and alternating weekends. To State Farm this made Dad’s car available “for regular use” of the child. Dad had let his policy lapse. State Farm insured the child’s mother, but refused to cover the child under the mother’s policy on the basis that the visitations made the father’s vehicle available for the child’s “regular use”.

By extension this exclusion can be applied to children riding the bus to school or regularly scheduled events. Car pool arrangements for work, sports and other activities. Relatives, friends and neighbors who regularly share travel by automobile etc. No other company employs this broad application of the exclusion.

The irony in each of these cases is that there is no way to privately insure yourself on a city bus, in a taxi, while visiting a non-custodial parent or riding with a friend or relative. You simply have no insurable interest in any of the vehicles involved. No other company has taken this extreme stance on this exclusion.

When considering a change of automobile insurance carrier consider another serious limitation in State Farm coverage in Washington. State Farm does not allow external stacking of either PIP or Under Insured Motorist coverage on non-owned autos. This limits the value of the coverage when you are injured as a passenger in someone elses car as compared to other companies including Country, Safeco and Liberty. The “other insurance” clause of the UIM coverage will disclose this coverage. Look for language stating that your policy is EXCESS over similar insurance on a non-owned vehicle.

State Farm and a number of other insurers also exclude guest passengers from UIM coverage if the liability coverage also applies. Other insurers do not do this. This means if you are at fault and your guest passenger is hurt, only the liability coverage will apply.

When you are harmed in an accident in Vancouver, contact the law firm of Caron, Colven, Robison & Shafton for a free initial consultation.