Auto Insurance Companies May Limit Liability and Coverage with Family Exclusions

November 6, 2012

Auto Accidents, Misc. Topics

Ohio Auto Insurance Policy Family ExclusionsSurprises can be a positive or negative occurrence, but when it comes to your automobile insurance coverage, surprises usually aren’t a good thing. Many motorists think they have bought “full coverage”—coverage far beyond state requirements, coverage that will protect their family in the event of almost any type of vehicular accident—only to discover this is not the case.

Sadly, many people discover too late that their insurance policy includes a “family exclusion” clause, also known as a “household” or “intra-family exclusion.”  These are typically found in the “Liability” section of the policy.

Such a clause states that the insurance company will not pay for expenses surrounding a family’s member’s death or injuries if another family member is shown to have negligently caused the accident.  Therefore, an auto accident that is your fault or the fault of another family member can leave you with very limited or no coverage for what could be some very serious injuries, or even a death.

For example, under the “family exclusion clause” if a man were driving his daughter and his daughter’s friend to dance class and he became involved in an accident that was found to be his fault, his daughter would receive little or no insurance coverage for any of her injuries.  However, the daughter’s friend would be fully insured to the extent of the policy.

The policy language of ,“intra-family exclusion” generally reads something like this:  “a family member or any person related to the insured by blood, marriage, or adoption, who resides in the same household, may not bring a claim or lawsuit against another family member who may be deemed liable for an accident in which they are a passenger in the “insured vehicle” or the clause might simply say something like this, “Our coverage will not apply to any insured person for bodily injury to you or a relative.”

There is currently an attempt to change this seemingly harsh rule whose stated purpose is to prevent two colluding family members from taking advantage of the insurance system by “staging” an accident and claiming fraudulent injury.

Ohio Senate Bill 293, currently in the Senate’s Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee, but supported by many members of the legislature, would prohibit insurers from enforcing an intra-family exclusion where a family member is killed in an accident.

Those pushing for changes in the law say insurance companies have the means to determine when someone has filed a fraudulent claim and there is no need to disqualify valid claims because of one or two disreputable parties.

At recent hearings, the Ohio legislators heard testimony from a Cincinnati couple.  The “family exclusion” clause in their auto insurance policy caused them to be denied insurance coverage for their daughter who died in an accident caused by the negligence of their son, the driver of the vehicle.

Additionally, the intra-family exclusion has been held to apply to uninsured/underinsured (UM) motorists as well.  In a 2010 case, the Third District Court of Appeals stated that Ohio Revised Code 3937.18 permits insurance companies to exclude exclusionary and limiting provisions in UM policies in intra-family claims.

You should ask your agent whether your policy contains “intra-family,”  “family exclusion” or “household” language.  If it does, you should consider purchasing additional bodily injury coverage or switching to another insurance company that does not have the exclusion in its auto policy.  You do not want to leave your family open to devastating financial liabilities following an auto accident.

According to the book, Fully Exposed:  How Insurance Companies are Stripping Your Auto Policy, published in 2010 by Brian Wilson, Nationwide, Grange and Motorists were the only companies not using the intra-family exclusion clause at that particular time.

For more information or to speak with an Ohio personal injury lawyer, call Slater & Zurz LLC at 1-888-534-4850 or send a message from the website at slaterzurz.com. If you are considering changing car insurance companies, Slater & Zurz attorneys may be able to recommend an auto insurance company who may be able to help you.

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About slaterzurz

Slater & Zurz LLP is an Ohio law firm of highly experienced and respected attorneys. Over the last 40 years, we have developed a reputation for getting positive results for clients. We've been trusted with handling over 20,000 personal injury cases and our clients have received more than $120,000,000.

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2 Comments on “Auto Insurance Companies May Limit Liability and Coverage with Family Exclusions”

  1. thinkinsure ontario car insurance Says:

    As it turns out many car insurance companies are using how they handle claims as a competitive advantage… so good for all us drivers. A recent report/study….most drivers feel that they have been treated fairly by Ontario car insurance companies and have been given proper expectations, good communication of steps involved and process from the onset to conclusion of a car accident claim. Auto insurance carriers of Ontario continue to demonstrate that their number one focus is customer service and meeting consumer expectations. More… http://www.thinkinsure.ca/car-auto-insurance-news/Ontario-Auto-Insurance-Claims-Handling-Remains-Exceptional.html
    Jon D

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ohio Auto Insurance Law Update: Coverage Minimums Rise and Changes in Intra-Family Exclusions | Slater & Zurz LLP Law Firm Blog - January 13, 2013

    […] new law also prohibits intra-family exclusions in auto policies when a family member is killed in an accident in which another family member (from […]

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