DennisBeaverSeptember 28, 2018 • By Dennis Beaver

Who can forget the anti-drug slogan “Just Say No?” As you will see, those three words have another use, only this time having nothing to do with illegal substances.

At one time or another, most of us have either been asked, or simply tossed our car keys to a friend needing wheels.

With that in mind, we received the following email from a reader marked, “Urgent – Please call as soon as you can.”

“I loaned our car to Ron, who at that time was a friend from work. He got into a bad accident, told me the police found the other driver at fault, but their report stated that Ron was 100 percent responsible, had no valid driver’s license, and no proof of insurance. When I showed it to him, his response was to laugh and say, “Well, you never asked me if I had any of those things!” We are no longer on speaking terms.

“Our car is insured. Who is responsible? My wife is very upset with me for what I did, but I told her not to worry, that our auto insurance will handle the claim because I gave Ron permission to drive the car. We’re covered, aren’t we? Thanks for your help, Jeff.”

I dialed Jeff’s number, spoke with a man embarrassed in the eyes of his wife, and after reading me language in his auto insurance policy, when asked to borrow his car, if ever there was a time to “Just say no,” that was it.

Automobile insurance policies are not one size fits all

“It is important to understand that automobile insurance policies may have very different conditions and limitations, especially when it comes to situations just like your reader’s,” Ventura-based State Farm Insurance agent Irene Henry tells You and the Law.

An insurance agent for more than 30 years, Henry was quick to point out, “Who is covered will vary, with some policies stating that only named drivers are protected, while others extend coverage to anyone operating the vehicle with permission of the owner.”

Henry stressed the importance of knowing what information your insurance company must have, and asks:

“Are there now, or will there be teenage drivers in the household? Some policies require notifying the company when a child obtains a driver’s license. A failure to do so with that type of a policy could result in a lack of coverage for the new driver.

“This includes teenagers, or where adult children or other family members move back home. It is so important that your insurance agent is informed of who has a driver’s license in that household,” she underscores.

Some insurance policies – often as confusing for lawyers as they are for members of the public – only cover listed drivers, while others refer to members of a household. So, you could be living at home, but if not listed, then you are not covered.

“Never assume coverage. Always ask your agent, and be sure to read the insurance policy Declaration Sheet,” Henry strongly recommends.

Ways to reduce insurance premiums for teenage drivers

Insuring teenage drivers is expensive, a reality which has led some families intentionally failing to inform their agent of this new, young driver who then gets into an accident. The consequences can be expensive.

Depending upon the insurance company and the state in which this occurs, coverage could be denied and the family therefore responsible for all damages the accident caused.

“But there are ways of reducing the cost of adding a child to the family’s auto policy, Henry observes,” listing several:

• Some insurance carriers offer teen driver’s discounts by watching a safety video;

• Good Student Discounts, which are based on grades, full time attendance, and when combined with meeting the family’s insurance agent, affords an opportunity for this young adult to build a professional relationship.

• Some of the nation’s largest carriers have introduced telematics programs which are connected to the vehicle and lets both the insurers as well as mom and dad see if they have a safe driver behind the wheel.

• Additionally, many of these same companies have smartphone apps which give drivers of all ages access to auto registration, insurance ID cards, their agent and policy information, thus reducing the need to go fumbling for this in a glove box if stopped by a police officer.

Allowing an unlicensed driver to operate your car equals trouble

 Irene Henry has a warning for our reader:

“He could face a lot more than the stern look on his wife’s face. Depending upon the insurance policy and the state, coverage for this accident could be denied or greatly reduced because he loaned the car to an unlicensed driver.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.