No one likes to think about the possibility of being responsible for an injury to a family member. Unfortunately, that scenario is all too common. A moment of carelessness or a brief lapse in judgment is all it takes. In the aftermath, you would hope that the auto insurance you paid premiums for would provide the same coverage to a family member as it would to a stranger. If your policy contains a step-down provision, that may not be the case.
Step-down provisions apply to liability coverage in auto insurance claims. For example, if a driver with a bodily injury policy limit of $250,000 negligently causes an injury to an unrelated passenger traveling in his or her car, the passenger may receive up to $250,000 in compensation from the driver’s auto insurance policy. But if the passenger is a family member, the amount of coverage is reduced, usually to the state minimum of $20,000. As a result, your loved ones are less protected than you think, and your premium is not paying for the coverage you think it is. For no good reason (other than padding their own bottom lines), some auto insurance companies are making it harder for injured family members to receive adequate and just compensation for their injuries.
Courts have ruled that step-down provisions are legal and enforceable, so take a good look at your auto insurance policy. If you have children or a spouse who travels with you in your vehicle, carefully consider what would happen if you caused an injury. You would want them to be fully compensated, but your policy may not allow that.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.