You might wonder precisely what kind of behavior your insurance company will cover if you're in an accident, and what kind of behavior is excluded. What if you rear-end another car while texting? What if you crash while street racing? What if you sideswipe a guardrail while scarfing a double cheeseburger, extra mayo, while talking on a cellphone and tuning the radio with your pet dachshund on your lap? In the end, the rules wind up being pretty simple, experts say. Stupidity tends to be covered. Intentional misbehavior usually isn't. (See whether you're covered under six of the most common accident scenarios with the Crash-o-Matic guide.)
Intentional acts are excluded from coverage
"When insurance companies describe accidents, you'll find words like unforeseen, sudden, unexpected or fortuitous," says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst with CarInsurance.com. "And they are every bit as explicit about labeling what is not an accident." Policies typically have an exclusion for intentional or criminal acts, such as fleeing from the police or crashing your car into other people's vehicles deliberately. That includes any sort of road rage type of behavior, Gusner points out. "If you intentionally ram into the car in front of you, your insurance company will not cover you," she says. "That scene in ' Fried Green Tomatoes' was fiction." (In the movie, Kathy Bates' character, cheated out of a parking space, rams the offender's car repeatedly. "Face it, girls," she drawls. "I'm older, and I have more insurance.") Another example of an intentional act that would not be covered is if you set your car on fire to cash in on the policy, says Pete Moraga, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California in Los Angeles. (See " Suspicious claims on the rise.")
Prohibited uses are excluded from coverage
But it's not necessarily criminal behavior that leaves you exposed. Most insurance policies exclude certain types of use as well.