Car insurance and the marriage discount
June 19, 2013 3:05 PM   Subscribe

My ex-husband is still listed as my spouse on my car insurance policy and I just recently found that it's been giving me a discount on my premium for the last two years that we've been divorced. If I send the insurance company my divorce decree, it will remove him from my policy and increase my premium by $100. I'd like to keep him on the policy and continue to get the discount. What penalties (if any) would occur if I did this?

I'm in Washington state. An agent at my insurance company knows that I'm divorced because I asked about taking him off my policy, but I have not sent them my divorce decree to make it official.

If I do make it official, he will be removed from the policy and I will be listed as single. Because we divorced two years ago and I've been fraudulently (yet unknowingly) getting the special marriage discount, would there be a penalty fee or back pay? If there is, I need to make this change immediately so I don't pay any more than I have to.

If I did not send them the paperwork and continued to receive the discount, would there be any future repercussions? Especially since I've spoken with an agent about my divorce already? Would it affect my ex at all if I kept him on my policy (like if I were to get in an accident or something)?

Ethically, I'm fine with keeping him on the policy so I can get my discount. He is not insured through this company for his own car and is only listed as a spouse and occasional driver of my car. Our lives are otherwise completely seperate. I just want to make sure that doing this will not negatively affect me (or possibly him, too?) down the road.

Also, would these questions be ok to ask my insurance company or would it tip them off?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Now I ain't no lawyer, but if this don't smell like fraud then I don't know what does.
posted by Sternmeyer at 3:08 PM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

By which I mean to say that you are knowingly providing false information so as to obtain cheaper insurance.
posted by Sternmeyer at 3:12 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

This sort of thing will get you into hot water with your insurance company, here in the UK. I wouldn't risk it, not least because it could invalidate your insurance which would affect you in the event of a claim.

Ethically, I'm fine with keeping him on the policy so I can get my discount.

This is not ethical in the slightest.
posted by Solomon at 3:13 PM on June 19, 2013 [13 favorites]

a) When you got your policy, did you check a box that said you were married? Or did they just pull that info from public records and use it?

b) Read your policy. If you are required to report changes in marital status, your policy will say it.
posted by ftm at 3:13 PM on June 19, 2013

With insurance of various types, if you have a big payout coming, they may scour your records to find any reason (fraud, misrepresentation) to suspend the policy and not pay out. They can also demand owed payments and penalties. Also, get a new agent. The one you have is not acting in your best interest.

Overall, this is a terrible idea. Fix it ASAP.
posted by quince at 3:15 PM on June 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

If it were me, the possible repercussions of being found out for knowingly committing insurance fraud would outweigh the benefit of saving $16/month (assuming the $100 increase is over 6-months of coverage?).

If the $100 is something you're seeing every bill, I understand the temptation. But the minute you have to actually use your insurance, if they see you haven't reported the divorce, then they have a very handy reason to refuse you coverage, or at least make your claim a whole lot more complicated. Not to mention, if your former spouse ever makes a claim against your insurance, a whole new set of complications could arise for you both.

Not worth it.
posted by juliplease at 3:15 PM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ethically, I'm fine with keeping him on the policy so I can get my discount.

Why? You admit "I've been fraudulently (yet unknowingly) getting the special marriage discount". I am a lawyer who prosecutes fraud cases, and fraud is not ethical. yes, committing fraud will "negatively affect you" if you get caught.

Disclose your marital status to the insurance company so you can stop committing insurance fraud, which I am confident is criminal in your state.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:23 PM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I divorced when I lived in Washington state. My husband had USAA which is one of those "You can only get it if you have a family member who was in the military" sorts of things. So I hemmed and hawed about getting him off my insurance. It finally got decided when he got his own insurance with them and then they called me to ask what the deal was and I was like "Yeah we got divorced 9 months ago" or whatever. There was no penalty for me for not telling them and actually USAA let me keep my low rates as a divorcee of a qualifying member. This surprised me but it all worked out okay.

If your ex-husband is at all likely to stay insured with the same company, they will figure it out. This might be a big deal or it might not but it is sort of a textbook definition of "insurance fraud" so I'd be careful.
posted by jessamyn at 3:24 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honestly I would probably start fresh with a new insurance company if you are worried about paying back premiums to stay with this one.
posted by payoto at 3:31 PM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of the reasons you have insurance is so that if the worst happens, the insurance company will be out tens of thousands of dollars rather than you. But if they pay out that much, you can believe that they will take a close look at you, and any insurance fraud you've committed will be out those tens of thousands of dollars (and more in penalties).

Simply put: committing insurance fraud to get a cheaper rate does not really benefit you because when you actually have to use the insurance, the fraud will make it useless.
posted by grouse at 3:35 PM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm the kind of person who always tries to weasel my way in to discounts and "get one over" on big corporations because fuck em'.

I would never, ever do this. I would actually be paranoid they would later figure out i had done this even if i fixed it now.

My mom was mired in litigation for several years to force an insurance company to pay out when she was 100% in the right and had all of her ducks in a row. Insurance companies hate paying for The Big Shit. Someone rearends your car in a parking lot and does a couple hundred bucks more than your deductible in damage? They'll probably come take a couple photos and cut you a check without even giving a shit. A drunk dude smashes in to your car and horribly injures you and completely totals your six month old car? They'll have their entire hall of monkeys on typewriters going over your shit with a fine tooth comb to find something like this. This is their dream. Someone might even get a bonus for catching you in this. It'll be like one of those crowd shots of a football game where people are chest-bumping and fist pumping, confetti canons will probably go off in the hallways.

I wouldn't touch this with somebody elses ten foot pole with a ski mask on, for fear they'd identify my shoeprints. Call them up today and ask them if they need the paperwork faxed/mailed over or if they can just switch it right now, and apologize and say you just noticed that you were still listed as married.
posted by emptythought at 3:55 PM on June 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

Mod note: Folks just answer the question being asked. We understand if you need to take the "legal advice" side discussion to MeTa but you can't have it here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:05 PM on June 19, 2013

I should add that I think it is a very bad idea to keep your ex-husband on the policy. It seems likely to me that leaving him there could be construed as insurance fraud (depending upon the terms of your policy) and, if that is the case, might lead to trouble if you ever need to file a claim.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 4:06 PM on June 19, 2013

I agree with the poster above who said to just get a new insurance company. Shop around for a rate that will match or lower the rate you are currently getting with the discount. You could go back to your current vendor with the competing rates and ask them to match or beat them, in which case they will probably ask you for relevant details about your life. When they ask marital status, state that you are divorced. You don't have to tell them when the divorce was finalized if you don't want to. I would rather quit my insurance company than send them a copy of my divorce decree. I'm no lawyer, so take it fwiw, but I don't think it's any of their business - IF you're getting a new policy.
posted by vignettist at 4:11 PM on June 19, 2013

If I were you, I would fix this immediately. You might actually be committing a crime.
posted by Sarcasm at 4:13 PM on June 19, 2013

An employee at my agent's office suggested that my live-in girlfriend and I say we were married for the multi-car discount. We went along for about 15 minutes, until my guilt racked conscience and paranoia about denied claims forced an awkward phone call to go back to being single.

Whether that means this happens a lot, who knows. But it sure felt creepy.

Lawry's steakhouses can still think we're married though. Nothing's gonna keep me from getting that shaker of seasoned pepper.
posted by hwyengr at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2013

Nobody has mentioned this, and I'm surprised. By keeping Jim on your policy, you are insuring your ex. What this means may include 'you get to pay the deductible when he wrecks a car.'

It may not mean that, but I'd be terrified that it did.

(does your insurance follow you CAR or the named drivers? Read your policy very carefully.)
posted by bilabial at 4:20 PM on June 19, 2013

Oh. And let's pretend he goes crazy, steals your car, and wrecks it. He's an authorized driver. You're on the hook.
posted by bilabial at 4:20 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

New insurance company right now as single female.

And most likely, you can get a cheaper quote somewhere.

Don't do this.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:33 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tell them you're canceling, they will probably lower your premium to get you to stay. Or shop around.

I agree with everyone saying its a bad idea. Insurance companies look for ANY reason to deny your claim, and fraudulent information is a big one.
posted by katypickle at 4:54 PM on June 19, 2013

Do you have an agent? Like, an actual person? They will help you with this.
posted by mskyle at 5:00 PM on June 19, 2013

How about the other potential down sides? If he's a Named Insured, he can call in and make changes to the policy. Or if they run your MVRs, if he has tickets, they impact the policy.

By the way, Washington state law is that insurance follows the car.
posted by smock smock smock at 5:26 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Basically, they'll happily collect your premiums and give you the discount, but when you finally have to make a claim, they won't pay out due to fraud and will cancel your policy.
posted by davejay at 5:33 PM on June 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Call them up, explain that you've realized the status is incorrect on your policy, and ask them to keep you at the low rate.
posted by theora55 at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2013

An agent at my insurance company knows that I'm divorced because I asked about taking him off my policy

Since then, your insurance policy has been a zombie: you're still paying premiums but you will never get a cent out of them unless you have paperwork from them acknowledging the change in your circumstances.

Your insurance company does not care about you. Its aim is to maximize what you pay it and minimize what it pays you, and it has much, much, much more scamming skill than you do.
posted by flabdablet at 7:02 PM on June 19, 2013

You could get quotes from other insurance agencies - maybe there's one that will give you a competitive rate even if you're single. Then the question becomes moot, or you can at least tell your agent that, if you can't get a competitive rate from your current company, you'll take your business elsewhere.
posted by amtho at 10:26 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are in an accident, your insurance company will be recording the conversation they have with you, and one of the first things they ask will be for you to state your name, date of birth, and marital status. They will go over your conversation looking for ways to avoid paying out.
posted by yohko at 12:47 AM on June 21, 2013

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