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Policy restrictions can be confusing for drivers

Thank you, to a fellow named Ron, for giving me the idea for my column topic this week.

Ron is a senior.  He called for my advice about qualifying for ICBC’s “seniors” rate classification, which comes with a 25% premium reduction.

I figure we should give seniors a higher discount, by the way.  Have you ever seen a senior texting or applying make-up behind the wheel?  How about drag racing?  I could go on, but I fear my wife might write another letter to the editor.

Ron is an intelligent guy.  The answer to his question wasn’t as simple as adding up the years since his birth date to see if they add up to 65.

Not only must the owner be at least 65 years of age to qualify, there are restrictions on how the vehicle may be used.  The restrictions are confusing.

A couple examples:  It’s apparently okay to drop your 18 year old granddaughter off at school, but not okay to drop her off at the Burger King where she works;  You can drive yourself to a part-time educational course, but only up to six times in a month, and you can never drive yourself to a part-time job.

In the words of Jo-Anne Cloutier, Autoplan Field Supervisor for ICBC:  “This all sounds very complicated”.  No kidding!  For help in understanding the restrictions, I invite you to read Jo-Anne’s well-written article on the subject at http://www.myseniorsite.ca/driving-discount.htm.

I wasn’t aware of Jo-Anne’s article when Ron gave me a call.  In fact, I wasn’t even aware that a “senior” discount existed.  I was entirely useless to Ron in explaining whether or not his proposed use of his vehicle was permitted.

I was able to give him some important advice, though:  Don’t ask a lawyer insurance coverage questions.

Whom should you ask?  Ask the person selling the insurance – the insurance broker.

Get the answers in writing.  Have the broker show you a brochure that contains the answer.  If the brochure doesn’t quite deal with your particular question, get the broker to write out the answer.

Insurance coverage is very serious stuff.  If you fail to abide by the restrictions of your rate category, you risk the insurance company refusing to provide the insurance benefits/coverage you purchased.

This applies to all kinds of insurance, not just vehicle insurance.

Why ask the broker?  You can rely on the answer.  Sure, a lawyer (not me, obviously) might get the answer right, but save your money and don’t take the risk that the lawyer might be wrong.

It is the broker’s job to know answers to coverage questions.  Not only that, but if the broker gives you the wrong answer, the broker will be answerable to you for the bad advice.  That’s where getting answers in writing comes in – so you can later prove what you were told.

Another piece of advice:  If it says you can drive to school only six times in a month, don’t think you’re being sly by going a seventh time and not getting caught.  There aren’t any insurance police monitoring how you use your vehicle.  Likewise, there aren’t any insurance police monitoring whether or not you are, indeed, a non-smoker when you apply for your life insurance.

You can bet your bottom dollar, though, that the insurance company will investigate after the fact, if there is a big enough insured loss, whether or not you complied with the restrictions of your rate class or whether you were indeed a non-smoker.

If they find out that you failed to follow a driving restriction for your rate class, or that you lied when you gave your life insurance declarations, your insurance policy will be voided.  It will be as if you never purchased the insurance in the first place.  You might as well have been flushing your insurance premiums down the toilet.

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