Can I do anything to avoid having my auto insurer pull a new copy of my driving record when adding my wife to the policy?
April 15, 2010 7:20 AM   Subscribe

I need to add my wife to my auto insurance policy. How can I do this in a way that reduces the chance that the insurer will obtain an updated copy of my driving record?

We recently married and I am now sharing my car with Mrs. Anonymous, who does not have an automobile of her own. My current auto policy is with State Farm. I had a clean driving record when I first obtained my policy but a DUI has been added to it since then.

State Farm has renewed my policy once or twice since the DUI and did not raise the rate, so presumably they did not pull new driving records for the renewals. If and when they do, I expect my insurance rate to increase by 100-125% if they continue to offer me a policy at all. Obviously, I would like to avoid this for as long as possible. Is there anything we can do to reduce the likelihood of this happening when we add my wife to the policy?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm surprised that your state (presumably) let you get your license back after your DUI without an SR-22 (special proof of insurance) from your insurance company. A lot of times, especially if you're a good customer with a good driving record, your insurance company won't check your MVR more than once every few years because they presume that nothing serious is going to go on it if they don't check. In your case, one of the most serious things that could go on a driving record HAS gone on yours, and you didn't tell them about it when it happened.

State Farm is a pretty conservative insurance company, meaning they really only want you if you're a good driver, and they reward their policyholders with some of the best rates around. They're probably going to drop you when they find out, because you're not classified as a good driver anymore, and you've withheld important rating information from them. Add your wife, because she needs to be covered as a driver. If they don't check, good for you. If they do check and drop you, consider yourself lucky that you've been able to scam better rates than you deserve all this time.
posted by scarykarrey at 7:31 AM on April 15, 2010


Here's the thing. Your car is already covered. As long as your wife is driving it with your permission, she doesn't need her own insurance. That said, it's pretty standard to ask on insurance renewal whether there are (1) any other drivers in the house and (2) whether they'll be driving on your car. My mother made me wait two weeks after my 17th birthday to get my license so that she could answer no to (1) truthfully. That said, State Farm will probably drop you when you get to your next renewal, so plan to switch then.
posted by Oktober at 7:34 AM on April 15, 2010


One more thing to think about, in terms of the sort of thought processes that go through insurance underwriter's minds (speaking as a former insurance agent):

If you add your wife now, chances are they'll be congratulatory, add her, and may not run your driving record check.

If you don't add your wife now, and she gets into an accident, and that's the first thing they find out about her, they may be suspicious and wonder about what else you're not telling them about, and run your driving record check then. They'd still cover the accident, but then they'd probably drop you for withholding information.
posted by scarykarrey at 7:38 AM on April 15, 2010


That's shifty advice, Oktober. I'm not sure it's true in every jurisdiction.

The way it works in WV, to the best of my understanding (having insured my own vehicles for 12 years, multiple employee vehicles by multiple employees, etc.) is that yes, the vehicle is covered, but so must the driver be. Ergo, if I let my friend who is insured drive my car and he smashes it, then I'm good...but if I let my friend who isn't insured drive and he smashes it, not so much. But...I might have been fibbed to a long time ago...but I know the insurance companies when I had several employees really insisted that each driver be listed individually on the policy, even if it didn't change the rate. I assume this is because they want to have yanked a record on each driver so they know if you're an increased risk or not, which is what Oktober's plan seems to be strategically avoiding.

We are a fault-finding state, don't know if that changes the circumstance or not.
posted by TomMelee at 7:41 AM on April 15, 2010


The caveat to Oktober's comment is that permission alone won't be enough if she becomes the principal operator of your vehicle. Depending on your policy, that could be grounds for a breach if she is involved in an accident and wasn't noted as PO when you renewed. Then you're looking at a lot more of a financial hit than just a rate increase!
posted by Pomo at 7:44 AM on April 15, 2010


From first hand experience, "insuring the car" is the standard in NJ, MI, DC, and IL.
posted by Oktober at 7:44 AM on April 15, 2010


Yeah, insurance follows the car and not the driver, so if you lend your car to Joe Shmoe down the street and he wrecks it, the accident will be covered (unless you signed a contract with your insurance company saying that you specifically will never let Joe Shmoe drive your cars). However, it's known as a "lending loss" to insurers, which is taken extremely seriously, because now you're the type of person who lends out their car to people who wreck it, and they can't rate you for all of the random people who might drive and wreck your car. That's when insurance companies make the decision as to whether they still want to insure you or not, and nowadays, most won't want to anymore.

That's why your insurers have wanted to know about every possible driving employee, TomMelee, so they can rate you for the worst driver of the bunch.
posted by scarykarrey at 7:48 AM on April 15, 2010


To be fair, they're going to kick him off of his policy for the DUI anyway, he might as well save some money in the interim.
posted by Oktober at 7:50 AM on April 15, 2010


Oktober, does your firsthand experience include making a claim on the policy where a driver who was not listed was involved in an accident?

I'd also second the SR-22 mention. If you've asked your insurance company to file a SR-22 form on your policy, then they're aware that there's a reason this was done. The amount of rate increase varies, and it's possible you didn't notice because the rate went down for another reason, like the car losing some value.
posted by mikeh at 7:51 AM on April 15, 2010


A word of clarification: yes, insurance policies insure cars, not drivers, but every driver in a given household is presumed to have access to the vehicles in the household, so the driving record of every driver is relevant to insurance carriers. Unless a driver has their own policy, you must give your carrier the information on every licensed driver.
posted by valkyryn at 7:52 AM on April 15, 2010


Oktober's comments are consistent with an "insurance follows the key" approach. This approach is generally a sound thought process for lending a car to a friend. However, for someone who lives in the household that approach is invalid. It is my understanding that all insurance companies require all licensed drivers who live in the household to be added to the policy. The consequences of not doing so could include denial of coverage for an accident sustained while the un-insured wife was driving.
posted by bunnycup at 7:56 AM on April 15, 2010


[few comments removed - "I'm not going to help you" answers are just snarky and unneeded]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:06 AM on April 15, 2010


The way my insurance works is how bunnycup described. If I loan my car out to someone and it gets wrecked it is covered, EXCEPT if the person lives at the same address as me unless they were specifically added to my policy. I found this out by calling and asking when I was living with a roommate.
posted by Kimberly at 8:13 AM on April 15, 2010


The problem with Oktober's advice is that your wife probably won't be considered to have just "borrowed" the call. They would consider her a primary driver and then try to deny coverage. If she can get her own car, you might be better off with her just getting her own policy. Your insurance company is probably going to drop you when they find out, but you might as well save the money in the meantime.
posted by spaltavian at 8:16 AM on April 15, 2010


My experience is the same as Kimberly's. That your wife is your wife and lives with you makes it very different when she drives the car from when you loan it to your neighbor. If she has an accident they sure might be able to deny covering it.

Is the answer not in your policy? You could try looking there instead of calling.

But really I doubt they will check your record just because of this. Just visit your agent's office (the two of you) and say you got married and need to update the list of drivers.
posted by fritley at 8:32 AM on April 15, 2010


I'm an insurance agent, but you don't say what state your policy is in so I may not be licensed there. Also, IANYIA.

In most cases you have 30 days from the date of the marriage to add your wife to your policy. Failure to do so can result in cancellation, but even worse, if she gets into an accident at any point after that 30 days it is not covered by most companies. Not even a little bit. Yes, insurance follows the car, but a licensed driver in your household who has access to the keys 24-7 and doesn't legally need your permission to drive the car is a lot different than lending the car to a friend or roommate once in a while. Most likely they'll just check hers, but they may check yours too if it's been some time, and it sounds like it has.

Most states require an SR-22 after a DUI, but not all of them, so it can reasonably be assumed that State Farm may know nothing of your DUI since you didn't have an increase and you didn't have to specify to them you needed an SR-22. But the fact remains that you did have a DUI. And part of the consequence of a DUI is a higher insurance rate. Suck it up.

There's nothing you can do to prevent them from pulling your MVR at any point in time, it's just that they most often pull one during policy changes or renewals. I'm surprised they haven't caught it yet. Just be happy you didn't have to pay that higher rate right away.
posted by sephira at 9:08 AM on April 15, 2010


Oktober, does your firsthand experience include making a claim on the policy where a driver who was not listed was involved in an accident?

While I'm not Oktober, my ex cracked up my car a few years ago and he was not on the policy. We were not married, but we did live together, and after they processed the claim, they just added him to my policy. When I called in to report it, they didn't give me any static about him not being on the policy, they just wanted to add him for the future. This was in NJ.
posted by crankylex at 9:13 AM on April 15, 2010


From the OP:
There's quite a bit of discussion there about whether my wife needs to be a named driver on the policy or not. I know that she does; it's a matter of living in the same household and not having a separate policy of her own on some other vehicle. (This may vary from state to state, but it is necessary here.)

As for getting a license back without an SR-22, my state does not use or require an SR-22.

Finally, I am intrigued by scarykarrey's comment about withholding important rating information vis a vis not having told the insurance company about the DUI. I was not aware that I had any obligation to inform my insurance company about infractions/offenses/etc. Is this something that is usually required by the terms of most insurance policies?

I'm going to be away from the computer for a while, but maybe some of this info will be helpful.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:22 AM on April 15, 2010


[few comments removed - please stick to the topic, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:49 AM on April 15, 2010


Yes, you are required to reveal all relevant information to your insurance carrier as a condition of your contract. Failure to do so can result in cancellation and denial of claims. Your carrier technically has the right to impose a retroactive premium on you for failing to disclose your DUI in a timely manner, but this isn't always done.
posted by valkyryn at 9:56 AM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oktober's comments are consistent with an "insurance follows the key" approach. This approach is generally a sound thought process for lending a car to a friend. However, for someone who lives in the household that approach is invalid. It is my understanding that all insurance companies require all licensed drivers who live in the household to be added to the policy. The consequences of not doing so could include denial of coverage for an accident sustained while the un-insured wife was driving.

Absolutely correct. Sort of. Insurance protects the named beneficiary from financial losses. Insurance does not protect things, it always protects assets.

At the most basic level, liability is what protects *the people named on the policy* from having to pay for damages caused by an accident where they might be liable. Collision/theft covers *the owner* of the car if the car is damaged or stolen. And there are a bunch of other line items that fill the gap (uninsured driver, etc).

And the policy will state the requirements and coverages for people who borrow your car. There may be a requirement that these drivers must have their own liability coverage. It may well be the case where the policy does not cover their liability as the driver- it only covers the owner of the car from any liability they might have when it is being borrowed is covered. That the borrowing driver's liability is covered by their own policy.

Almost always, the policy does say that all licensed drivers in the household must be added to the policy, so that they can properly determine the risk involved and set the price correctly. So not doing that will open you up to them not covering an accident.

Further, policies almost always say that the covered drivers are also covered for their liability when they are operating a borrowed vehicle. It will state what kind of coverage. In this case, the insurance follows the driver.



Now, for where the rubber meets the road, you can probably get away with not making any changes to the policy, provided your wife never drives the car. That's how we did it in our family; I wasn't on my parent's insurance and had my own, and I just wasn't allowed to drive the car. It was a tradeoff- everyone's insurance was cheaper and we were within the spirit of the law. But if your wife drives the car and there is an incident, you may well be fucked, depending on how mean the insurance company it.


(As for the DUI- read the fine print on the policy- there may or may not be a section that requires you to inform them. I'm sure it depends on the state.)
posted by gjc at 10:20 AM on April 15, 2010


It's pretty surprising that your rates haven't gone up. It sounds like some oversight on the part of your insurance company. Usually, every six months, when you renew your policy, they should be pulling your driving record and changing your rates or dropping you accordingly. You may be required to inform them, as others have said. As for adding your wife, there's really no way to guarantee they won't take another look at your policy.
posted by ishotjr at 12:48 PM on April 15, 2010


Seconding Valkyryn...you may want to read the fine print of your insurance contract. YOU may not even be covered if there is something in there about disclosing your DUI which you didn't do. Also, in our state (WA), it is usually a requirement for first time DUIs in the diversion program to be required to present the court with SR22 insurance in order to get their license back.
posted by MsKim at 2:03 PM on April 15, 2010 [1 favorite]



Finally, I am intrigued by scarykarrey's comment about withholding important rating information vis a vis not having told the insurance company about the DUI. I was not aware that I had any obligation to inform my insurance company about infractions/offenses/etc. Is this something that is usually required by the terms of most insurance policies?


I am not an insurance agent, now. I was in the past. In all the states I was licensed in, it was definitely required for you to report any changes, from infractions, to a new driver, to a DUI, a bump in a parking lot.

When adding a driver we very seldom pulled the the other driver's record unless they acted funny. In some states even if they pull your record they can not raise your rate due to your DUI until the next policy renewal, in others it is immediately.

I saw many cases of people having accidents and being denied for not adding a driver that lived in the home or for having driving infractions they had not reported. It is much better to call your insurance agent, add your wife, tell them about your DUI rather than wait, have an accident, and them denying all coverage and you being left to pay for all damages and medical bills out of pocket.

With State Farm it is very likely you will not be renewed once they find out about the DUI, start looking for new insurance now. When you do look, be honest with the agents or you could have another bad situation.

Oh, and don't drink and drive again, please.
posted by SuzySmith at 11:42 PM on April 15, 2010


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