Lately, many auto insurance companies have been gaining more customers by offering a unique incentive: accident forgiveness. When a driver…
“Hello, John? Your test results from your recent exam are in and the doctor would like to meet with you to review them.”
While it’s bad enough that medical tests can result in unexpected and sometimes, long-term implications, many wonder if their auto insurance can be affected as well?
The names in the following example have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved, however this is a real-life example of how a health condition ultimately impacted auto insurance.
John had gone to the doctor to address recurring migraines. He told Dr. Friday that his migraines had suddenly become frequent and so severe that he often felt light-headed (sometimes while driving) and on more than one occasion he had become disoriented and/or briefly lost consciousness.
Dr. Friday ran tests, prescribed medication and at his follow-up visit, referred John to a Neurologist for more testing. John was told that if he experienced bouts of light-headedness, loss of consciousness or any other new symptoms before his appointment with the Neurologist (scheduled 10 days out), he should contact Dr. Friday right away or go to the nearest Emergency Room. It was also recommended that John not get behind the wheel of a car while he was experiencing a migraine.
Five days after his visit in Dr. Friday’s office, John received a letter from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The letter indicated that John had 7 days to surrender his driver’s license to the DMV and that his driving privileges had been revoked for a minimum of 90 days. John was in shock. His doctor had recommended that he not drive if he was experiencing a migraine, but he had no idea that his symptoms posed a risk of losing his driving privileges, all together. John lives in a Mandatory Reporting state.
Because John had reported feeling light-headed while driving to his provider, by law, Dr. Friday was required to submit that information to the DMV. His provider felt that his condition posed a reasonable threat to the safety of himself and others who share the roadway which the state upheld and mandated a temporary suspension of his driving privileges.
All states have established policies for the identification of drivers with physical or mental impairments. Many states provide only for voluntary physician reporting; however, a few states have mandatory reporting laws. Common mental or physical impairments that medical providers are required to report include epilepsy and dementia however, like in John’s case, may extend to any physical, mental or emotional condition that could interfere with one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.
Regarding insurance practices, John’s carrier received a notification through a national database that his license has been suspended. This prompted his company to investigate and obtain a signed exclusion form. The exclusion allowed for John to continue to insure his vehicle with the company, but he was not allowed to drive until his license had been reinstated. The exclusion not only prohibited John from driving, but if he should receive any citations or become involved in any accidents while the exclusion was in force, the policy would be void.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, prohibits the discrimination of people with disabilities and pertains many aspects of today’s society (including auto insurance). Consequently, insurance companies are prohibited from denying those with disabilities coverage and from imposing higher premiums than necessary.
However, as previously noted, the DMV in each state, has guidelines which establish who may or may not be considered competent to hold a driver’s license in that state. If state’s guidelines should deem anyone temporarily or permanently unfit to operate a motor vehicle safely, they may revoke driving privileges. It is at that point that an insurance company may intervene, to limit their risk.
On average, disabled individuals pay roughly $700 more per year for auto insurance coverage, than their healthy counterparts. How is this possible? Insurance companies base their rates on risk and while a carrier may not charge additional premiums to those who are disabled, they CAN charge for additional coverages a disabled person may require. Such coverages include: adaptation coverage, mobility insurance and equipment insurance.
Vehicle adaptations such as after-market equipment installed to make it possible for a disabled driver to operate a motor vehicle. Many insurance companies require that such modifications be insured at a different rate to ensure the vehicle is adequately covered at the time of a loss. In the event of a loss, obtaining a rental vehicle with the proper modifications for a disabled driver, may be difficult to come by. It is for these instances, some companies offer mobility insurance, as an additional coverage.
Additionally, someone with a medical condition may need to transport medical devices such as oxygen tanks, wheelchairs and other necessary equipment that would not otherwise be covered by a standard auto policy, but instead by optional, equipment insurance.
Just when we think we have covered our bases, asked the right questions, compared coverages and secured the best policy to suit our needs, life happens.
Unexpected medical conditions, like that of John’s, or simple oversight regarding our current health situation can result in restrictions, a void or lack of adequate auto coverage. John’s driver’s license was ultimately reinstated in his state after six months of continued medical monitoring. He was also able to submit a medical statement and a copy of his reinstated driver’s license to his insurance company to have the driver exclusion removed from his policy, without further consequence.
While it is unlawful for insurance companies to discriminate against those with a medical condition, they can restrict, alter or offer additional coverages in some instances. It is always important to discuss such concerns with a licensed agent regarding state laws and different policy options your insurance company may offer surrounding medical conditions.