Who is covered under an auto insurance policy?
Insurance policies are written to provide coverage for their insureds in the event of an accident. Knowing who is covered and who is not can mean the difference between obtaining a recovery under the policy or being left with nothing. Generally, an insured is the person who purchased an auto insurance policy. This person is usually specifically listed on the declarations page of the policy as an insured.
In many cases it is not just the listed insured who may be covered under an auto insurance policy. Others, such as family members that reside with the insured, may also be covered. Whether such coverage exists will be found in the declarations page of the policy.
Auto insurance policies in Missouri will generally cover not only the insured but also any other family member that resides with the insured. This is unless the insurance company specifically excludes certain members of the household from coverage or they are excluded under a different policy exception.
The presumption in Missouri is that auto insurance companies will provide coverage to household members of an insurance. Insurance companies ask potential insureds who they reside with and who drives in the insured's household so that they may better calculate their potential liability. It is important to be truthful and not hide information about the drivers in your house when applying for coverage. An insurance company can deny coverage when an insured fails to disclose other drivers in their household or intentionally withholds information.
If members of your house have bad driving histories, this may cause your coverage to be much more expensive than it would have been unless those household members are specifically excluded from coverage under the policy.
Each insurance company has their own “boilerplate” policy language that addresses this point. To see what coverage may apply to your policy, I suggest reviewing the declarations page of your policy with your agent or a licensed attorney. Certain drivers in an insured's household may be specifically listed as excluded from coverage based on their driving history if the insurance company is aware of them.
A recent Missouri Court of Appeals decision addressed one such exception listed on a Farm Bureau insurance policy. In Matthew McBride vs. Farm Bureau Insurance Company, Mo. App. SD35799 (2019) a son attempted to make an uninsured motorist claim under his father’s insurance policy after being hit by a driver that did not have insurance. The son co-owned a different car that was not part of the accident. Missouri Farm Bureau contended that the son was excluded from coverage due to the exception listed on the policy for any family member who owned a car. The “Who is an Insured” section for UM coverage stated the following:
3. The family members of the person(s) identified in 1. Above except that any
family member who owns or leases an auto is only considered to be an insured
while occupying your auto, a temporary substitute auto, or newly acquired
The court upheld this exception, holding that the language of the policy was not ambiguous and that the son’s status as co-owner of a separate vehicle precluded him from making a claim.
The important take away here is that if you are in an accident, you should review not only your policy if you have one, but the policies of the other people that you reside with. You may find out that you have a claim that others may have missed.