Are You Sure Your Family Is Covered Under Your Insurance Policies?

Buying insurance whether it be for your home, vehicle or an umbrella policy, can be daunting. The fineprint, in my opinion, is fine for a purpose. The print is hard to read and loaded with insurance and legal lingo that is not understood by the customers with no background in those areas. You read the basics and sign on the dotted line.

It is legal in some states to write an insurance policy that has language that excludes any and all coverage if a family member is the person at fault, that accidentally injured another family member in the same home. This includes step-family members. To better explain the lack of insurance coverage that your policy might contain, I want to share my personal experience with you.

On September 13, 2000, on my honeymoon, I was involved in a motorcycle accident where my new husband hit the back of the car in front of us. I was thrown twenty feet into the air and suffered two skull fractures, a traumatic brain injury and eleven broken bones in my back. The accident left me permanently disabled. My husband had insurance policies that he took out right before we married that totaled over $3.5 million in coverage for this type of accident. The legal battle that ensued with the insurance company to pay on those policies lasted for 5 years ending at the Supreme Court of West Virginia.

The accident took place in WV, but we were residents of Ohio, where the insurance policy was written. Ohio law allowed insurance policies to include “family exclusions”. The law was deemed to be unfair and a change in the way insurance policies could be written was signed into law in July 2000 by the then governor of Ohio. In Ohio, it takes 90 days for a signed law to be implemented. Therefore, the new law did not go into effect until September 21, 2000, just 8 days after my accident. So, if the accident would have taken place three days before, when I was not married to my husband, the person at fault for the accident, or it would have taken place eight days later when the new law had taken effect, the insurance company would have had to pay me for my devastating injuries under all the policies we owned which totaled $3.5 million in coverage. But, since the accident happened when it did, the insurance company had to pay nothing, zero!

The case went through the courts in WV ending in the Supreme Court of WV because the public policy of West Virginia has been strongly opposed to family exclusions and they could have held Ohio law to be null and void and use WV law and held the insurance company responsible. But a three to two Supreme Court decision left me with no compensation for my injuries at all. To fully understand the unfairness of this law is to explain it with the scenario that my husband picked up a hitchhiker and then got into the same accident with the hitchhiker receiving the exact same injuries that I did.

The hitchhiker would have definitely received $3.5 million dollars, without a trial. The policies would have all come into effect immediately. This was not an issue that even the insurance companies debated. But, I was related to the insured, so that was not the case. My son, who would have been my husband’s stepson, was not able to receive any insurance benefits because of the same reasoning under the old law. So, I ask you is this fair? Of course not. But, it is true. A state’s civil code which includes things such as how insurance companies can write their policies, can be changed and have an effect on the fineprint in the policies you are considering. Is the average consumer suppose to be held accountable for reading and understanding civil codes and keep up to date with all changes in the codes before they sign an insurance policy? This is a ridiculous expectation.

Yet, how else could the average consumer know what they are signing up for? I know my husband did not think he was paying the high price for policies and umbrella policies only to not have family members covered under them. I encourage everyone to read their policies completely and discuss with their insurance salesperson about the exclusion of family members. You might not have this exclusion in your policy, but then, if you do, your life could be turned upside down like mine has without any of the insurance compensation that you month after month have paid for. Legislators who passed such laws in the first place cannot be held legally responsible for the catastrophic results of their actions. Judges cannot be held responsible for their legal decisions that leave the hurt and disabled without any compensation for their injuries.

I presently am going through a horrific divorce, facing a very bleak financial future, still facing physical pain and trauma from my injuries. I am glad that the law in Ohio was changed for all future policies, but what about your policy? Are you and your family members covered? Are you positive? If not, please do the research before a catastrophe, before it is too late.

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