Auto Insurance Coverage for Underage Drivers
Age and gender are two of the criteria used by insurers in the process of determining risks in the writing of motor vehicle insurance policies. As a result, auto insurance policies sometimes contain provisions that exclude from coverage incidents that occur while a covered vehicle is being operated by a driver under a specified age, or by a male driver under a specified age. Questions of coverage arise when, as is inevitable, such incidents of operation by underage drivers take place and result in injury or property damage.
Policy exclusions based on age are sometimes viewed favorably because they make it possible to insure vehicles that could not otherwise be covered at reasonable premium rates. Because they are at odds with the general intent of the auto insurance system, however, which aims to provide innocent third parties with insurance coverage against injury or property damage caused by motor vehicle accidents, they may be found violative of such things as minimum coverage requirements or other provisions of statutes dealing with insurance coverage. Additional questions may arise where the driver of a car or truck involved in such an incident has been given permission to operate the vehicle by a person who has himself or herself been given permission to drive the vehicle by the named insured, or where the underage driver is not a member of the household of the named insured.
The business of insurance in the United States, including that of motor vehicle insurance, has traditionally been governed by the separate laws of each of the states rather than by a single unified system of federal law. The answers to questions concerning auto insurance policy provisions that seek to restrict coverage for vehicles operated by underage drivers will vary from state to state, and will be found in the state statutes regulating the business of insurance and in the decisions of courts dealing with matters of insurance law.