Your firm handles all kinds of car accident cases. If your client is the plaintiff, you are likely counting on accessing the funds from the defendant’s auto insurance policy to help compensate your client. But if the defendant was Driving Under the Influence (DUI), those funds may not be available. We frequently run car accident investigations for cases like this, including policy limit investigations, and we often discover terms in the policy that affect the case in significant ways. Our clients ask us to investigate the accident and review the policy limits, but sometimes don’t think to ask “Does the DUI affect auto insurance policy limits?” Depending on the language in the policy, it can.
Auto Insurance Coverages
It’s important to understand the different types of coverages in an auto insurance policy to truly understand what might be covered in a DUI Accident. Auto Insurance policies generally may consist of some or all of the following coverages.
- Bodily Injury — Coverage for the injuries sustained by the other party in an accident.
- Property Damage Liability — Pays for the damage that the insured driver causes to other peoples’ property, including their auto, personal property, street fixtures, buildings, and so on.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) — Pays for medical treatment for the driver and passengers, and sometimes includes lost wages, or even funeral costs.
- Collision — Pays for damage done to the driver’s car in an accident.
- Comprehensive — Pays for losses generally caused by something other than a collision with another car or object. Falling trees or rocks, cracked windshields, hail, flood, fire, vandalism or other intentional or unintentional driver-less damage are often included.
- Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist — Pays the driver or passenger if they are hit and injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, or an unknown motorist, as in the case of a hit-and-run accident.
Each of these coverages can be relevant to your DUI auto accident case, and when determining whether there is coverage after a DUI accident.
Does a DUI Affect Auto Insurance Policy Limits?
As a general rule, insurance policies are designed to insure against accidents, which means they cover many kinds of negligent actions. And if an insured driver is in an accident, whether they are fully, partially, or not at fault, all of the relevant coverages will generally remain in effect at their full policy limits.
But auto insurance policies are not intended to pay damages for intentional acts, and many insurance companies interpret the behavior of an at-fault DUI driver as an intentional act. Their argument generally goes like this:
- The driver knows that driving drunk puts themselves and others in harm’s way.
- The driver intentionally drank alcohol
- The driver intentionally became drunk
- The driver intentionally drove while drunk
This, the insurance company can argue, makes the DUI an intentional act, even if the policy doesn’t explicitly say so.
Some other policies are much more clear on the matter, and may actually disclaim some or all coverage for damages caused by a DUI driver.
For example, some policies may state that in the case of a DUI, the policy will maintain the Bodily Injury and Liability coverages, which both benefit the victims of the DUI driver, but will not pay out on the Personal Injury or Collision coverages, which would otherwise benefit the DUI driver. Other policies specifically disclaim all coverages in the event of a DUI. And some policies we have seen will pay out for a DUI, but require the presence of Comprehensive coverage to do so.
In some DUI cases, attorneys will also file a separate claim against the at-fault driver for Intentional Misconduct. If the judge or jury decides in the plaintiff’s favor and the plaintiff is awarded damages, the insurance company will not pay the damages. The at-fault driver will need to pay the award out of their own pocket.
When representing your client and planning your DUI accident case, it’s important for you to know what the policy says with regards to DUI, and specifically if a DUI affects the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy limits.
Understanding Policy Limits in DUI Cases
Whether or not there are insurance funds available for your client lies hidden in the details of the policy. At Glucroft Investigations, we have reviewed thousands of insurance policies and are expert in discovering auto insurance coverage details, including the terms related to whether a DUI affects auto insurance policy limits. When you have your next Auto Accident case for our Accident Investigation and Policy Limit Investigation services, call us at 866-411-8646 or contact us online. Uncovering The Hidden Is What We Do.
This article is not meant to offer legal or insurance advice. For advice concerning your particular situation, please contact your appropriate legal or insurance professional.