Injured? Better Have a Valid Driver's License!

Many of us who regular drive motor vehicles or who are passengers in them (does that just about include everyone?), are unaware of a chilling and relatively recent Illinois Supreme Court decision that has the effect of denying insurance coverage to those without valid driver's licenses.

In Founders Ins. Co. v. Munoz, 237 Ill.2d 424, 930 N.E.2d 999, 341 Ill.Dec. 485 (Ill., 2010), the Ilinois Supreme Court determined that insurance coverage was not afforded to those who did not have a "reasonable belief" they are "entitled" to use the vehicle insured.

In other words, the court took the question of whether an insurance policy can exclude people who do not hold valid driver's licenses from coverage.

Think about the impact of this for a moment. Every person you allow to use your car (son, daughter, college roommate, co-worker, law clerk), must have a valid driver's license in order for the insurance policy to apply. Let's take the "what if" scenario a bit further. You loan your car to your co-worker so he can pick up lunch for both of you while you stay and work on a project. You ask this individual if they have a license and they respond affirmatively. It could be that this person has a license but that it is invalid due to suspension or revocation. This individual could be involved in a serious collision and your carrier could refuse to cover damages arising out of it or the defense of this. THAT MEANS YOU COULD BE LEFT WITHOUT COVERAGE!

In short, the Illinois Supreme Court allowed insurance providers to limit their coverage to those with valid licenses. Thus, a person using an insured vehicle with the permission of the insured, who believes (incorrectly) he or she has a valid driver's license (perhaps it was suspended and the notice was never received due to a mail snafu), could be left without any coverage, as could the vehicle owner.

Without commenting too vigorously against this particular decision, it seems apparent that this takes advantage of premium paying customers as well as unwittingly "not entitled" drivers in allowing insurers to shirk their responsibilities to defend and indemnify pursuant to their policies.

With this case in mind, double check the license status of yourself and every person who ever is allowed to use your vehicle!

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