When the policy of the vehicle owner and the policy of the permissive user have different limits, the matter becomes even more complicated. If the damages caused by the permissive user’s negligence exceed the owner’s liability limits, the policy of the permissive user might be tapped as secondary coverage, but usually only where the permissive user’s liability limits are higher than the owner’s liability limits.
Certain factors must be considered in determining if an insured is covered when driving someone else’s vehicle, including the reasons for driving the vehicle, if the insured had permission or not, or if it was a rental or dealership loaner. In each case, the individual circumstances and state law involved will factor into the outcome, but another policy might be considered primary over the insured’s.
The answer to whether insurance follows the car or driver depends on many variables, most notably the kind of insurance coverage being referred to. There are coverages that follow the car and coverages that follow the driver. In general, auto insurance follows the car instead of the driver, but the specifics of a claim can differ since insurance laws and coverage vary depending on the policy, coverage and state being dealt with.
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There are certainly insurance carriers and policies that will not cover any driver not specifically named in the policy. Other relevant facts include where the “other driver” resides and if they are related to the insured. In general, if someone is living in the insured’s household and regularly drives the insured’s vehicle, many insurance carriers expect you to have that person named on the policy. They will need to undergo the same underwriting and qualification process as any other policyholder.
Cheap, sub-standard auto carriers write insurance for insureds with bad driving records. They are able to do this by setting their own limited conditions under which they will provide coverage. These sub-standard carriers do not cover claims that would be covered under a more standard policy. These policies can contain “named-driver exclusions” which limit coverage to persons specifically named in the policy. “Step-down” policies often lower liability coverage to a state’s minimum limits for permissive users, even if the insured pays for higher limits. Deductibles can be higher and/or a policy won’t extend coverage to a rental vehicle. Therefore, policy terms vary and directly affect whether a particular coverage follows the car or the driver.
Therefore, a very basic and often incorrect answer to the wrong question is that auto liability coverage generally follows the driver, while auto physical damage coverage generally follows the vehicle. However, more often than not, you will be asking the wrong question. As long as a driver has the vehicle owner’s permission to operate the vehicle, the owner’s policy will provide coverage no matter who the driver is. The vehicle owner’s policy should cover injuries and property damage. However, exceptions do exist. In most cases, therefore, the right question to ask would be “Is there insurance coverage under these specific facts?”
Collision and comprehensive insurance are two optional types of auto insurance where your insurer pays for repairs to your vehicle. While there are other optional auto insurance coverages, liability, comprehensive, and collision are three of the most common. These coverages work hand-in-hand to repair or replace most of the damages to your car. It's important to know the difference, and make sure you're adequately covered.