Question: I'm looking for a good definition of a permissive user. My question goes to how far does the coverage extend to other drivers past the initial permissive driver. Does it cover immediate family, extended family, friends (theft/intent are not issues)?
Answer: In general, a permissive user is defined by auto insurance companies as a person that is not listed on the policy but who operates an insured vehicle with the permission of the owner. The permissive user may or may not be covered in the event of a loss depending on the term of the insurance contract and the state laws on permissive driver use.
The majority of car insurance companies require that all household members and regular operators of the vehicle be listed on the insurance application, and then policy as drivers, to be covered. A permissive user is typically not a household member.
Whether permissive use extends to others beside the individual who requested the permission is hard to say. It depends on whom the policy permits to grant permission and how that permission may be granted. In general, though, if friends or family come to visit and you grant them permission to use your vehicle, then most auto insurance policies will extend them coverage. If the person lives with you or frequently drives your vehicle, instead of being just a permissive user the individual will normally need to be added as a driver on your policy.
A permissive driver normally will be covered with the same coverages as the name insured because in many states the coverage follows the vehicle not the driver. However, if there is failure to comply with the policy terms, with state laws there may be a reduction in coverage provided or coverage may be denied.
Since the owner of a vehicle can be vicariously liable for injury or damage that occurs with their property it's important for you to review your policy declarations page, as it should list who is to be covered in the event of a loss and how your policy provides these coverages. Your insurance agent or insurance carrier would also be able to provide you with the specific information regarding your policy and answer any questions you may have about who is covered to drive your car.
The state laws regarding whom a permissive user may be defined as and how they may be extended, coverage varies by state. You can visit your state's regulatory office to verify that information.