My friend was in a car accident and was charged with DUI. Can his car insurance deny coverage?

Question

My friend was in a car accident and was charged with DUI. Can his car insurance deny coverage?

Answer

Answers to questions about car insurance coverage always come down to the specific language contained in the policy. But in general, when a car accident is coupled with a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction, it can make the insurance coverage waters pretty murky.

First off, in most cases, if you’ve got collision coverage and you’re just making a claim for damage to your own vehicle, your car insurance carrier can’t typically deny the claim based on the fact that the accident was caused by your driving under the influence. Collision coverage protects you when your vehicle is damaged in an accident, regardless of who was at fault, and regardless of what caused the accident.

But if you’re trying to get your car insurance carrier to pay for damage to the other vehicle, or to cover bodily injury claims brought by the other driver or any passengers involved in the accident, you could be in for a fight. Again, it depends on the specific kinds of coverage you’ve chosen and the exact language in your policy, but some insurers will try to deny liability coverage when an insured causes an accident and is convicted of DUI, under the argument that the collision was based on intentional or criminal misconduct, and not ordinary negligence.

Most insurance policies exclude coverage for losses caused by intentional conduct. This is a bit of a legal gray area where DUI-caused car accidents are concerned. The insurance company’s argument is that the insured intentionally drank alcohol, intentionally became intoxicated, and intentionally got behind the wheel. The insured would argue that, even if all of those things are true, the car accident itself was not an intentional act.

If your car insurance carrier is denying your claim for coverage (or is denying a third party claim brought by an injured driver or passenger), you may want to contact an experienced attorney and discuss your options, including the likelihood that legal action on your part might get the carrier to accept coverage.

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