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Unlicensed spouse wrecked my car. Covered?


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Question: My wife wrecked my car. She doesn't have a license and shouldn't have been driving.  I was at work when this happened.  Will my car insurance pay if she is found at fault? 

Answer: Your situation is akin to a parent whose unlicensed teenager takes the family car for a spin and crashes.  It depends upon the details of your auto insurance policy if the accident will be covered or not.

In general, auto insurers require that you not only disclose all regular operators of your car, but also all household members of a certain age (driving age in your state usually) – whether the individuals are licensed or not.  (See “Who can drive your car?”)

How household members who aren’t licensed are listed on the policy can vary depending upon the car insurance company.  Some auto insurers mark unlicensed drivers as “unlicensed,” and if they aren’t going to be rated on, then the person will also be marked as “unrated” so that the individual won’t affect your car insurance rates.

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If your insurance company was aware of your spouse and had her on the policy as unrated, due to her lack of a driver’s license, then it’s very possible that the incident will be covered.

It’s highly probable, however, that your auto insurance company will nonrenew you at the end of your policy period, or it’ll require you to now add your wife to the policy as a rated driver (and pay a premium for her) -- even if she isn’t licensed – now that she has driven your vehicle without being licensed and crashed it.

If you had failed to inform your car insurance provider that you had a spouse, then it could assert that there was misrepresentation on your part.   In many states, if material misrepresentation is found out about, car insurance companies are able to deny claims and cancel your policy.

If your spouse were specifically excluded from your policy, then you should know from the language of the exclusion form that this incident wouldn’t be covered. 

Excluding an individual from your policy means if that person operates your vehicle he or she won’t be covered in any way by your auto insurance coverages or benefits.  (See “What is a named driver exclusion?”)

Ultimately, to find out if this accident will be covered by your auto insurance policy, if she is found at-fault, you’ll have to contact your insurer directly. 

If your wife is covered in this instance by your auto insurance policy, then if she is found at fault the damages she caused others would be covered by your liability coverages (bodily injury and property damage).  For damage to your own vehicle, you would need to collision coverage to make a claim, and the deductible would be due.

It appears your wife wants to drive, so she needs to get a valid license. To help get the best rates for both of you on one household auto insurance policy, start comparison shopping now.  Shopping around for the cheapest rates will be important whether your wife is newly licensed or reinstating her license after a suspension or revocation.  (See “3 ways to save big on car insurance”)

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