Friday, March 4, 2011

Georgia Court of Appeals upholds automobile insurance exclusion

The Court of Appeals of Georgia today upheld an exclusion in an automobile liability insurance policy that precluded coverage for a driver who borrowed the car of another but was not listed on the owner's policy.  In State Auto Mutual Insurance Co. v. Todd (Case no. A11A0046, March 4, 2011), the court held that the driver was excluded from coverage because she regularly used the vehicle that she was driving at the time that she was alleged to have committed a negligent act causing injury to a third party.

Automobile insurance policies routinely contain exclusions to coverage for drivers who are not listed on the policy or application for insurance but are nevertheless regular users of the vehicle.  The purpose of such exclusions, the court explained, is to allow non-regular, incidental use of a vehicle by a non-listed driver without increasing the premiums; when that other driver regularly uses the vehicle, on the other hand, the insurer may take on additional risk without a corresponding increase in premium.  The exclusion allows the insurer to prevent this additional, uncompensated risk, and Georgia courts have routinely upheld them as enforceable.

In this case, the court found that there was sufficient evidence that the allegedly at-fault driver regularly used the vehicle - she testified, for example, that she used it "[r]egularly, but maybe not on a daily basis," and that she sometimes kept it at her home - and therefore, as a matter of law, she fell within the "regular use" exclusion in the policy.  The auto insurer therefore had no obligation to provide coverage to her for claims made by the injured third party.

Turkheimer & Hadden, LLC
Attorneys at Law
Trials and Appeals  
(404) 890-7200

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