Will Insurance Cover a DUI Accident?

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and irresponsible. But what happens if you cause an accident while intoxicated – will insurance still cover the damages?

The short answer is usually yes, your auto liability coverage will pay for injuries and property damage to others if you are at fault. However, your own vehicle repairs may not be covered if you violated policy exclusions.

This article provides an in-depth look at how insurance handles DUI accidents, exclusions to be aware of, and steps to take to get claims paid.

Overview of DUI Accident Insurance Claims

Insurance policies are contracts that list covered perils along with exclusions where coverage does not apply. Causing an accident due to drunk driving is typically considered a covered event under the liability portion of an auto policy.

This means if you injure someone or damage their property while driving intoxicated, your insurer is obligated to pay – up to your policy limits – for:

  • Other driver’s medical bills
  • Repairs or replacement for their vehicle
  • Pain and suffering damages

However, many policies exclude coverage for your own vehicle if you were driving illegally while intoxicated. There are also exclusions for punitive damages in some states.

Why Insurance Still Applies in DUI Crashes

Even though drunk driving is an intentional, illegal activity, insurance claims are usually covered for three key reasons:

1. Lack of Intent for the Accident

While choosing to drive drunk is intentional, you don’t intend to actually get into an accident and cause damage. Insurance pays for negligent unintentional acts.

2. Innocent Third Party Protection

Liability coverage exists to compensate innocent accident victims – even if the policyholder was driving illegally.

3. Policy Wording

Auto policies don’t have a specific exclusion for driving under the influence. Intoxication is not one of the listed events that voids coverage.

So insurance companies must uphold their duty to pay covered claims resulting from a DUI accident. Failing to do so would breach the policy terms and conditions.

Common Exclusions in DUI Crashes

Although insurers can’t flat out deny a claim due to intoxication, many auto policies contain exclusions that could apply:

  • Driving Without a Valid License – If your license was suspended, coverage may be excluded for your vehicle.

  • Racing – Liability may be limited if you were engaged in illegal speed contests when the accident occurred.

  • Intentional Act – If you intended harm by deliberately causing the crash, your insurer can deny coverage. But drunk driving itself is rarely considered an intentional act.

  • Criminal Acts – Damage to your own car may not be covered if the policy excludes losses “due to a criminal act”. DUI is a crime in all states.

It’s important to review your individual policy or consult an attorney to determine if any exclusions apply to your specific DUI accident. Never assume you have no coverage without checking first.

Punitive Damages and DUI Accidents

Punitive or exemplary damages are awarded in some states to further punish egregious behavior. They typically are not insurable – meaning your insurer won’t pay exemplary damages assessed after a DUI crash.

But compensatory damages that reimburse actual losses are covered up to your policy limits. Make sure you understand which types of DUI accident damages your insurance will and won’t pay before accepting a settlement.

Steps to Take After a DUI Accident

If you are involved in a car accident while intoxicated, here are important steps to take:

  • Seek medical attention if needed.
  • Cooperate with law enforcement but don’t admit fault.
  • Consult an attorney about your rights and next steps.
  • Contact your insurance provider to report the accident.
  • Do not settle or sign any release without proper advice.
  • Keep records of all accident costs, correspondence and communications.

A qualified attorney can help address the legal and financial aspects of the crash. Make sure you understand what expenses your insurer will reimburse before agreeing to any settlement.

How Claims Work When Both Drivers Are Intoxicated

Many DUI accidents involve two drunk drivers. How does insurance work when both parties are intoxicated?

The at-fault driver’s insurance remains liable for damages. If you crash into another drunk driver and you are determined to be majority at fault, your insurer pays for their losses while their policy covers your vehicle.

Fault is apportioned between the policyholders based on each driver’s relative responsibility. Your intoxication levels may also be used to assign comparative negligence.

So even if the other motorist was drunk, if you were deemed more than 50% liable for causing the accident, your policy must cover their damages. Both insurers will likely try to push blame onto the other driver to minimize payouts.

Denied DUI Accident Claims

Occasionally an insurer will outright deny coverage for a DUI crash, or dispute paying for certain damages. This forces you to decide whether to accept the limited settlement, hire an attorney to negotiate better terms, or file a lawsuit to prove your case in court.

Some common reasons insurers deny all or part of DUI claims include:

  • You drove a vehicle owned by someone else without permission (non-permissive use).

  • Your policy specifically excludes damage to your car caused by criminal acts.

  • Your BAC level was above the legal limit established in your policy wording.

  • The insurer alleges you crashed intentionally in an insurance fraud scheme.

  • You violated licensing requirements like driving on a suspended license due to a prior DUI.

If you believe the insurance company is unlawfully refusing coverage, an experienced lawyer can help fight for your legal rights to compensation. Never accept an unfair or unsatisfactory settlement without exploring your options first.

State Laws Governing DUI Accident Claims

Certain state laws can impact insurance claims after drunk driving wrecks:

  • No Fault States – Your own insurer pays some or all medical bills regardless of fault. Michigan and New York are no fault states.

  • Contributory Negligence – If you are even 1% to blame for the crash, you can’t recover damages in NC, VA, MD and a few other states.

  • Comparative Negligence – You can recover damages if less than 50% at fault, but they are reduced by your percentage of fault.

  • Right to Sue for DUI – A handful of states prohibit lawsuits against establishments that served alcohol to the intoxicated driver.

Consult a local attorney to understand your rights in your particular jurisdiction. State laws affect the claims process after a DUI-related accident.

The Bottom Line

It’s a common misconception that insurance won’t pay anything if you cause an accident while driving drunk. In reality, auto liability coverage will typically compensate other motorists you injure or whose property you damage.

However, many policies exclude coverage for your own vehicle repairs and punitive damages after a DUI crash. Always review your specific policy terms and contact your insurer promptly after an accident to start the claims process.

If your insurance provider denies your DUI accident claim fully or in part, consider speaking with an attorney right away to understand all your legal options. An experienced lawyer can help get your claim paid fairly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some common questions and answers about insurance and DUI accidents:

Will insurance pay medical bills from a DUI accident?

Yes, the at-fault driver’s liability coverage will pay the other party’s medical expenses up to the policy limits. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage also pays your own medical costs.

Does insurance cover damage to your car after a DUI crash?

It depends. Many policies exclude coverage for damage to your own vehicle either partially or fully. But liability will still pay for harm to other cars/property.

Can insurance deny a DUI claim?

An insurer cannot reject a covered liability claim solely due to intoxication. But specific exclusions like driving without a valid license or criminal acts may give them grounds to deny paying for your own vehicle repairs.

What if the other driver was also drunk?

Even if the other motorist was intoxicated, if you were more than 50% at fault you can still be liable for their damages. Comparative negligence rules apply.

Will insurance pay for a totaled car after a DUI accident?

The at-fault driver’s liability coverage will pay the actual cash value or replacement cost of the other person’s totaled vehicle. But many policies exclude own damage coverage so your totaled car may not be covered.

How much does insurance go up after a DUI accident?

Exact increases vary by state and insurer, but expect at least 100% higher car insurance rates after a DUI-related accident. Some insurers may drop your policy altogether, forcing you into high-risk plans.

Do Auto Insurance Cover Drunk Driving Accidents?


What actions can an insurance company take if you receive a DUI?

If you have a DUI violation, your rate will go up. Insurance companies may consider DUI drivers as riskier to insure or even refuse coverage.

Does full coverage insurance cover DUI accidents in California?

Insurance Companies Can Deny Coverage for a DUI Accident Insurance companies in California are primarily concerned with their bottom line. This means they want to deny claims as often as possible. However, these companies usually cover damages caused by people who acted in a reckless or negligent way.

Does insurance cover DUI accidents in Texas?

If you are involved in a drunk driving accident, the at-fault party’s insurance will pay for your injuries and related damages. According to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), damages may include medical costs, lost pay, pain and suffering, and property damage, among others.

Will car insurance pay for a car totaled in a DUI accident Massachusetts?

Whether your insurer will compensate you for a totaled car in a DUI (driving under the influence) incident rests on your policy agreement’s wording. The agency may cover your damages or deny coverage because you were committing a crime.

Leave a Comment