Tag: Automobile insurance

Insurance Coverage for “Temporary Substitute Autos” in Louisiana

Louisiana insurance law recognizes a practical problem faced by many: the need to obtain alternative transportation when the car won’t start. Under La. R.S. 22:1296, any insurance on your personal vehicle must also extend to vehicles that are used as “temporary substitute autos.”

The statute provides that a car’s status as a “temporary substitute auto” depends on how the term is defined in the particular auto policy at issue. However, some rules typically apply to determine whether the auto is a “temporary substitute.” First, the use must be temporary, i.e. limited in duration. Second, the car must be a substitute for the auto insured under the policy and used for the same purpose. Third, policies typically limit coverage to substitute vehicles that the driver does not own.

Some policies also limit coverage by requiring that the substitution be needed for a purpose identified in the policy, such as the breakdown, repair, or destruction of the covered auto.

While the statute generally defers to the definition of “temporary substitute auto” provided in the policy, sometimes courts will overrule the insurer’s definition. For instance, in State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Safeway Insurance Company, 50-098 (La. App. 2 Cir. 9/30/15), 180 So.3d 450, the relevant policy defined a “temporary substitute auto” as a substitute for the owned auto when the owned auto was “being serviced or repaired by a person engaged in the business of selling, repairing, or servicing motor vehicles.” The case involved a motor vehicle accident that occurred while the policy holder operated a borrowed vehicle but before she brought her usual vehicle to a mechanic.

Citing the terms of the policy, the insurer denied coverage on grounds that the policy required the “temporary substitute auto” not only take the place of the driver’s usual vehicle, but also that the driver take the car to a mechanic before coverage would extend to the substitute vehicle. However, the court found this requirement to be against the public policies behind La. R.S. 22:1296 and found coverage under the policy extended to the borrowed vehicle.

No Pay, No Play: What is it and why does it matter?

Louisiana’s automobile insurance premiums are some of the highest in the United States. With so many other demands on driver’s wallets, it may seem tempting to simply not purchase a liability automobile policy, even if it is required by Louisiana law. Louisiana’s “No Pay, No Play” statute, LA-R.S. 32:866, is intended to fight that temptation. See Progressive Sec. Ins. Co. v. Foster, 1997-2985 (La. 4/23/98), 711 So.2d 675. Below are some key considerations for drivers and insurers on either side of a potential “No Pay, No Play” dispute.

For Drivers

The “No Pay, No Play” statute means just what it seems—if you do not pay for your own liability insurance, you cannot recover under someone else’s liability insurance even if the accident is not your fault … at least to a point.

Specifically, the “No Pay, No Play” statute precludes someone who does not have liability insurance from recovering from another driver’s policy (1) the first $15,000 of bodily injury damages and (2) the first $25,000 of property damage. Of course, if damages do not exceed these amounts, it means the uninsured driver cannot recover his or her damage at all.

Of course, some exceptions exist. For example, the statute does not apply (meaning, it does reduce the plaintiff driver’s recovery) if the other driver is cited for operating his or her vehicle while intoxicated and is convicted or pleads nolo contendere; if the other driver intentionally causes the accident; if the other driver flees the scene; or if the other driver is in furtherance of the commission of a felony. However, the off-chance that a driver falls into an exception should not outweigh the obligation to comply with Louisiana law.

For Insurers

Generally, liability insurers should assert the “No Pay, No Play” affirmative defense when it appears a plaintiff driver lacks liability insurance. However, insurers should also keep in mind that this defense also has limitations.

For instance, the “No Pay, No Play” statute is not necessarily a total bar to a plaintiff’s recovery. If damages exceed $15,000 for bodily injury and/or $25,000 for property damage, payment may still be owed for these excess damages.

Secondly, the party asserting the “No Pay, No Play” affirmative defense—usually a defendant insurer—bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff driver lacked insurance coverage on the vehicle he or she was operating at the time of the incident.

This burden can sometimes present difficult issues. For instance, in Johnson v. Henderson, 2004-1723 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/16/05), 899 So.2d 626, the plaintiff was operating a vehicle he did not own. The defendant failed to yield and struck the plaintiff’s car.  The defendant and his insurer asserted the affirmative defense under “No Pay, No Play.”

The facts of the case suggest the vehicle that the plaintiff was operating was not insured, but plaintiff paid his “premiums” to the owners of the vehicle, had an ostensibly valid insurance card, and believed he was insured. The court found that the defendants failed to carry their burden of establishing a lack of coverage. As a result, the insurer owed the plaintiff the full amount of his damages—a total of $5,855.00 that would otherwise have been precluded under the statute.  

The “No Pay, No Play” issue is easily avoided: Louisiana drivers should get the insurance required by the statute. Failure to do so runs the risk of discounting (and potentially barring) recovery for accidents that are not the driver’s fault.