I first wrote on State Farm’s abuse of the "available for regular use" exclusion in its Washington Auto Insurance policies 4 years ago. The abuse continues. Recently I have received calls from several lawyers requesting the materials I have from my last encounter with this tactic.
A little background. Every automobile insurance policy has language in it that excludes coverage if the insured is riding in a car owned by or available for the regular use of an insured and not included in the insured’s policy. This clause is designed to prevent those of you with multiple cars from buying insurance on one car and slopping it over to other cars you own, or to a work vehicle you drive every day. The idea is that you should insure those vehicles that are regularly available for your use.
In the State of Washington State Farm began using this exclusion very aggressively against personal injury victims approximately 5 years ago. I have encountered its use with minor children visiting a non-custodial parent, an adult child driving a parent to medical appointments, college roommates carpooling to school, ride share arrangements, school and public transportation buses and borrowed cars.
The most cynical attempt to apply it is a case where by all accounts the driver and passenger were simply friends. Both teens they rode around together. State Farm questioned the insured about details of the number of times the young man rode with athe friend, the purpose of the trips, whether or not they drove to work together and other details obviously designed to find evidence to deny the claim. To my surprise State Farm has now issued a "reservation of rights" based on the frequency of use of the subject vehicle.
If you have State Farm Auto Insurance and you are hurt while occupying a car you don’t own, you might want to consult a qualified personal injury attorney before you talk to your own insurance company.