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California Automobile Insurance Law Guide

Get in-depth treatment of the major liability insurance cases and insurance statutes as well as full analysis of typical provisions of the standard automobile insurance policy.

Get in-depth treatment of the major liability insurance cases and insurance statutes as well as full analysis of typical provisions of the standard automobile insurance policy.

  • Scope of insurer’s obligation
  • Persons and entities insured
  • Vehicles insured and exclusions 
  • Public policy and statutory requirements
  • First party coverages: injuries to insured and to insured’s property
  • Termination of policies
  • Duty to defend
  • Reciprocal duties of insured and insurer; duty of good faith
 
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Get in-depth treatment of the major liability insurance cases and insurance statutes as well as full analysis of typical provisions of the standard automobile insurance policy.

  • Scope of insurer’s obligation
  • Persons and entities insured
  • Vehicles insured and exclusions 
  • Public policy and statutory requirements
  • First party coverages: injuries to insured and to insured’s property
  • Termination of policies
  • Duty to defend
  • Reciprocal duties of insured and insurer; duty of good faith
 

1

Overview of Automobile Insurance

  • I.  INTRODUCTION
    • A.  Scope  1.1
    • B.  Types of Policies  1.2
    • C.  Coverage Under Non-Automobile Liability Policies  1.3
      • 1.  Claim Occurring on Insured Premises or Adjoining Premises  1.4
      • 2.  Conduct Independent of Use of Automobile  1.5
    • D.  Concurrent Causation  1.6
      • 1.  Coverage If Efficient Cause Is Covered: First Party Claims  1.7
      • 2.  Coverage If Any Independent Concurrent Cause Is Covered: Third Party Claims  1.8
    • E.  Terminology  1.9
    • F.  Policy Structure  1.10
    • G.  Analyzing Policy  1.11
  • II.  FORMATION OF CONTRACT
    • A.  Common Formation Procedure  1.12
    • B.  Requirement of Document and Delivery  1.13
    • C.  Oral Contracts of Insurance  1.14
    • D.  Premium  1.15
    • E.  Insurable Interest  1.16
    • F.  Vehicle Code §5604  1.17
  • III.  INTERPRETATION OF POLICY
    • A.  Overview: Policies Construed as Other Contracts  1.18
    • B.  Ascertainment of “Clear and Explicit” Meaning  1.19
    • C.  Role of Reasonable Expectations  1.20
    • D.  Construction of Ambiguities Against Insurer  1.21
    • E.  Limitations of Coverage Must Be Conspicuous, Plain, and Clear  1.22
    • F.  Miscellaneous Rules  1.23
    • G.  Reformation
      • 1.  By Insured  1.24
      • 2.  By Insurer  1.25
  • IV.  AGENCY
    • A.  Agent and Broker Defined  1.26
    • B.  Importance of Distinction Between Agent and Broker  1.27
    • C.  Scope of Authority  1.28
    • D.  Ostensible Authority  1.29
    • E.  Waiver and Estoppel  1.30
    • F.  Coverage by Estoppel; Limiting Provisions  1.31
  • V.  AGENT’S OR BROKER’S LIABILITY
    • A.  To Insured
      • 1.  Theory of Recovery  1.32
      • 2.  Scope of Duty in Tort  1.33
      • 3.  Duty to Fill Gaps in Coverage  1.34
      • 4.  Effect of Other Insurance  1.35
    • B.  To Insurer  1.36
  • VI.  COVERAGE SUITS
    • A.  No-Action Clauses
      • 1.  Effect  1.37
      • 2.  When Is Liability Established Against Insured?  1.38
        • a.  If Insurer Provided a Defense, No Liability for Stipulated Judgment  1.39
        • b.  If Insurer Does Not Provide a Defense  1.40
        • c.  If Collusion by Insured  1.41
    • B.  Judgment Creditors and Third Party Claimants  1.42
    • C.  Declaratory Relief
      • 1.  Availability  1.43
      • 2.  As Evidence of Bad Faith  1.44
      • 3.  As SLAPP Suit  1.45
      • 4.  Procedure  1.46
      • 5.  Attorney Fees  1.46A
    • D.  Choice of Law
      • 1.  Rules  1.47
      • 2.  Examples  1.48

2

The Insuring Agreements

  • I.  INTRODUCTION  2.1
  • II.  THE LIABILITY INSURING AGREEMENT
    • A.  Definition  2.2
    • B.  Sample Agreement  2.3
    • C.  Analysis of Elements
      • 1.  Bodily Injury  2.4
        • a.  Emotional Distress Accompanied by Physical Injury  2.5
        • b.  Emotional Distress Unaccompanied by Physical Injury  2.6
      • 2.  Property Damage  2.7
      • 3.  Arising Out Of  2.8
        • a.  Application  2.9
        • b.  Cases: Loss Arising Out of Risk  2.10
        • c.  Cases: Loss Not Arising Out of Risk  2.11
      • 4.  Ownership  2.12
        • a.  Statutory Definition  2.13
        • b.  Application in Specific Contexts  2.14
        • c.  Compliance With DMV Requirements  2.15
      • 5.  Maintenance  2.16
      • 6.  Operation  2.17
      • 7.  Use  2.18
        • a.  Examples: Injury Arising Out of Use of Insured Vehicle  2.19
        • b.  Examples: Injury Not Arising Out of Use of Insured Vehicle  2.20
        • c.  Loading and Unloading  2.21
          • (1)  Examples: Coverage and Noncoverage for Loading  2.22
          • (2)  Examples: Coverage and Noncoverage for Unloading  2.23
          • (3)  Analysis of Loading and Unloading Cases  2.24
      • 8.  Garage Endorsements  2.25
  • III.  FACTORS AFFECTING LIABILITY INSURING AGREEMENT
    • A.  Limits of Liability  2.26
      • 1.  Statutory Minimums  2.27
      • 2.  Types of Limits  2.28
        • a.  Split Limits  2.29
        • b.  Single Limit  2.30
        • c.  Combined Single Limit  2.31
      • 3.  “Per Person” Issues  2.32
        • a.  Wrongful Death Cases  2.33
        • b.  Emotional Distress Cases  2.34
        • c.  Loss of Consortium  2.35
      • 4.  Multiple Policy Issues  2.36
      • 5.  Number of Occurrences  2.37
      • 6.  Insurer’s Liability After Exhausting Its Policy Limits  2.38
    • B.  Policy Period  2.39
    • C.  Territory  2.40
    • D.  Accident and Occurrence  2.41
      • 1.  Accident  2.42
      • 2.  Occurrence  2.43
    • E.  When Accident or Occurrence Takes Place  2.44
  • IV.  OTHER TYPES OF INSURING AGREEMENTS
    • A.  Medical Expense Coverage  2.45
    • B.  Uninsured Motorist Coverage  2.46
    • C.  Physical Damage Coverage  2.47
  • V.  PERSONAL AUTO POLICY  2.48

3

Persons and Entities Insured

  • I.  DISTINCTION BETWEEN INSURED AND NAMED INSURED
    • A.  Insured and Named Insured  3.1
    • B.  Coverage Consequences of Distinction  3.2
  • II.  FAMILY POLICIES
    • A.  “Persons Insured” Clause  3.3
    • B.  Coverage for Owned Automobiles  3.4
    • C.  Coverage for Nonowned Automobiles  3.5
  • III.  COMMERCIAL POLICIES
    • A.  Persons Included and Excluded  3.6
    • B.  Treatment of Partnerships and Associations  3.7
  • IV.  PERMISSIVE USE
    • A.  Statutory Requirement  3.8
    • B.  Who May Give Permission  3.9
      • 1.  Permissive User Giving Permission to Another  3.10
      • 2.  Permission Not Created by Later Ratification  3.11
    • C.  Effect of Permission  3.12
    • D.  Examples of Permissive Use  3.13
    • E.  Transfer of Ownership  3.14
  • V.  LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR USE  3.15
  • VI.  RESIDENT OR MEMBER OF SAME HOUSEHOLD  3.16

4

Vehicles Insured

  • I.  VEHICLE CLASSIFICATION
    • A.  In Family Policies  4.1
    • B.  In Commercial Policies  4.2
    • C.  Owned Vehicle
      • 1.  Newly Acquired Vehicle  4.3
        • a.  Acquisition During Policy Period  4.4
        • b.  Notice  4.5
        • c.  Replacement Vehicle  4.6
        • d.  Exclusion for Owned Vehicles  4.7
      • 2.  Temporary Substitute Vehicle  4.8
      • 3.  Hired Vehicle Under Commercial Policies  4.9
    • D.  Nonowned Vehicle  4.10
      • 1.  Exclusion of Coverage  4.11
      • 2.  Regular Use  4.12
      • 3.  Borrowed Vehicle  4.13
  • II.  FUNCTIONAL CATEGORIES OF VEHICLES  4.14
    • A.  Automobile and Motorcycle  4.15
    • B.  Off-Road Vehicle  4.16
    • C.  Heavy Equipment  4.17

5

Exclusions From Coverage

  • I.  GENERAL PRINCIPLES
    • A.  Limitations on Exclusions  5.1
    • B.  Burden of Proof  5.2
    • C.  Interpretation of Exclusionary Language  5.3
    • D.  Exclusionary Clause Must Be Conspicuous, Plain, and Clear  5.4
  • II.  TYPES OF EXCLUSIONS
    • A.  Bodily Injury to Insured or Relatives
      • 1.  Validity  5.5
      • 2.  Application  5.6
    • B.  Damage to Property  5.7
      • 1.  Identifying the Insured  5.8
      • 2.  “In Charge of”  5.9
    • C.  Injury to Insured’s Employee  5.10
    • D.  Public or Livery Conveyance; Carrying Property for Charge  5.11
    • E.  Social Service Transportation  5.12
    • F.  Vehicles Used for Commercial Purposes or for Automobile Business  5.13
    • G.  Intentionally Caused Injury
      • 1.  Exclusions Based on Policy and Statute  5.14
      • 2.  Meaning of “Intentional”  5.15
        • a.  Malicious Conduct  5.16
        • b.  Willfulness Versus Intent to Injure  5.17
      • 3.  Coverage Despite Intentionally Caused Injury  5.18
      • 4.  No Coverage for Punitive Damages  5.19

6

Statutory Requirements

  • I.  INTRODUCTION  6.1
  • II.  AUTOMOBILE LIABILITY POLICY REQUIREMENTS
    • A.  Ins C §11580.05: Statutory Public Policy  6.2
    • B.  Ins C §11580.1  6.3
      • 1.  Subdivision (a): Scope of Statute  6.4
      • 2.  Subdivision (b): Required Provisions  6.5
        • a.  Self-Insurer and Permissive Use Coverage  6.6
        • b.  Posting Cash Bonds or Deposits  6.7
        • c.  Coverage for Nonowned Vehicles Not Required  6.8
        • d.  Permissive User Exclusions  6.9
      • 3.  Subdivision (c): Authorized Exclusions  6.10
      • 4.  Subdivision (d)
        • a.  Designated Individual Exclusion  6.11
        • b.  Permissive Users of Named Insureds in Automobile Business  6.12
      • 5.  Subdivision (e): Policies Excluded From Requirements  6.13
      • 6.  Subdivision (f): Coverage for Social Service Transportation  6.14
      • 7.  Subdivision (g): Coverage Limitations for Nonadmitted Mexican Insurers  6.15
      • 8.  Subdivision (h): Nonadmitted Mexican and Uninsured Motorist Coverage  6.16
      • 9.  Statutory Authorization and Policy Language  6.17
    • C.  Ins C §11580  6.18
  • III.  ADDITIONAL STATUTES IMPACTING AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE
    • A.  California Financial Responsibility Law  6.19
    • B.  Proposition 103  6.20
    • C.  CC §3333.3: Preclusion of Recovery of Damages by Felons  6.20A
    • D.  CC §3333.4: Limitations on Recovery of Noneconomic Damages  6.21
  • IV.  PERMIT AND COVERAGE REQUIREMENTS FOR CALIFORNIA MOTOR CARRIERS OF PROPERTY  6.22
    • A.  Liability Insurance Requirements  6.23
    • B.  Required Scope of Coverage  6.24

7

First Party Coverages: Injuries to Insured and Insured’s Property

  • I.  INTRODUCTION  7.1
  • II.  MEDICAL EXPENSE COVERAGE  7.2
    • A.  Named Insured and Relatives  7.3
    • B.  Other Persons  7.4
    • C.  Meaning of “Occupying”  7.5
    • D.  Typical Exclusions  7.6
    • E.  Effect of Other Sources of Payment  7.7
    • F.  Relation of Medical Payment to Liability Coverage  7.8
  • III.  OTHER DIRECT BENEFITS FOR DEATH OR INJURY TO INSURED
    • A.  Death Benefit  7.9
    • B.  Death Benefit Exclusions  7.10
    • C.  Disability and Extra Medical Benefits  7.11
  • IV.  PHYSICAL DAMAGE COVERAGES
    • A.  Collision Coverage  7.12
    • B.  Comprehensive Coverage  7.13
    • C.  Measure and Method of Physical Damage Recovery  7.14
    • D.  Loss Payees  7.15

8

Termination of Policies

  • I.  INTRODUCTION
    • A.  Kinds of Termination  8.1
    • B.  Renewal
      • 1.  Definition  8.2
      • 2.  Procedure  8.3
    • C.  Nonrenewal
      • 1.  Definition and Procedure  8.4
      • 2.  Limitations on Nonrenewal  8.5
  • II.  CANCELLATION
    • A.  Effect, Method, and Proof of Cancellation  8.6
    • B.  Grounds for Cancellation  8.7
    • C.  Procedure  8.8
    • D.  Special Cancellation Requirements  8.9
    • E.  Defenses  8.10
    • F.  Cancellation by Mutual Consent; by Substitution  8.11
  • III.  RESCISSION
    • A.  Definition and Procedure  8.12
    • B.  Grounds for Rescission  8.13
      • 1.  Concealment  8.14
      • 2.  Misrepresentation  8.15
      • 3.  Breach of Warranty  8.16
    • C.  Materiality  8.17
    • D.  Scienter  8.18
    • E.  Reasonable Reliance by Insurer  8.19
    • F.  Kinds of Material Misrepresentation  8.20
    • G.  Time to Rescind; Insurer’s Duty to Investigate Insurability  8.21
    • H.  Waiver and Estoppel to Prevent Rescission  8.22

9

Duty to Defend

  • I.  INSURER’S DUTY TO DEFEND  9.1
  • II.  SCOPE OF DUTY TO DEFEND
    • A.  Gray v Zurich Ins. Co.  9.2
    • B.  Applying Gray v Zurich Ins. Co.  9.3
    • C.  Expiration and Continuation of Duty to Defend  9.4
  • III.  CONSEQUENCES OF INSURER’S FAILURE TO DEFEND
    • A.  Control of Litigation  9.5
    • B.  Conflict of Interest  9.6
    • C.  Settlement  9.7
    • D.  Judgment
      • 1.  Collateral Estoppel: General Rule  9.8
        • a.  Effect of Default Judgment  9.9
        • b.  Effect of Stipulated Judgment  9.10
      • 2.  Effect of Fraud and Collusion  9.11
      • 3.  Insurer’s Additional Liability  9.12
      • 4.  Intercarrier Disputes  9.13

10

Reciprocal Duties of Insured and Insurer; Duty of Good Faith

  • I.  INTRODUCTION  10.1
  • II.  INSURED’S DUTIES TO INSURER
    • A.  Notice of Accident or Loss  10.2
    • B.  Cooperation  10.3
    • C.  Insurer’s Burden of Showing Prejudice
      • 1.  Breach of Cooperation Clause  10.4
      • 2.  Breach of Notice Clause  10.5
    • D.  Waiver and Other Defenses  10.6
    • E.  Effect of Public Policy  10.7
    • F.  Insured’s and Primary Insurer’s Duty to Excess Insurer  10.8
  • III.  INSURER’S DUTIES TO INSURED  10.9
    • A.  Statutory Unfair Claims Settlement Practices; Moradi-Shalal v Fireman’s Fund Ins. Cos.  10.10
    • B.  Duty to Settle Within Policy Limits  10.11
      • 1.  Nature of Demand  10.12
      • 2.  Necessity of Demand Within Policy Limits; Exceptions  10.13
      • 3.  Good Faith but Erroneous Denial of Coverage; Strict Liability  10.14
      • 4.  Multiple Insureds; Multiple Defendants  10.15
      • 5.  Effect of CC §3333.4  10.16
      • 6.  Disclosure of Policy Limits  10.17
      • 7.  Liability to Excess Insurer  10.18
    • C.  Beneficiaries of Insurer’s Obligation; Assignment of Rights  10.19
      • 1.  Relatives and Heirs  10.20
      • 2.  Shareholders, Judgment Creditors, and Lessees  10.21
      • 3.  Other Insurers  10.22
      • 4.  Limits on Insurer’s Liability  10.23
    • D.  Statute of Limitations  10.24
    • E.  Admissibility of Pretrial Settlement Offers  10.25
    • F.  Joint Representation
      • 1.  Potential Conflicts of Interest  10.26
      • 2.  Independent (Cumis) Counsel  10.27
    • G.  Existence of Fiduciary Relationship  10.28
    • H.  Insurer’s Duty of Good Faith
      • 1.  Duty to Insured  10.29
      • 2.  Types of Bad Faith Actions  10.30
      • 3.  Comparative Bad Faith Is No Defense  10.31
      • 4.  Damages Recoverable for Breach of Good Faith Duty
        • a.  Compensatory Damages  10.32
        • b.  Emotional Distress Damages  10.33
        • c.  Liability for Punitive Damages  10.34
        • d.  Measure of Punitive Damages  10.35
        • e.  Prejudgment Interest  10.36
        • f.  Attorney Fees  10.37
      • 5.  Insurer’s Defenses and Offsets  10.38

11

“Other Insurance” and Relationship Among Insurers

  • I.  INTRODUCTION  11.1
  • II.  CONFLICT AMONG “OTHER INSURANCE” CLAUSES
    • A.  Types of “Other Insurance” Provisions  11.2
    • B.  Prorate Clause Versus Excess Clause  11.3
    • C.  Excess Clause Versus Excess Clause  11.4
    • D.  Escape Clause Versus Prorate or Excess Clause  11.5
  • III.  “OTHER INSURANCE” CLAUSE LEGISLATION
    • A.  Public Policy: Ins C §§11580.8–11580.9  11.6
    • B.  Motor Vehicle Business: Ins C §11580.9(a)  11.7
    • C.  Motor Vehicle Leasing and Renting in the Course of Business: Ins C §11580.9(b)  11.8
    • D.  Loading or Unloading Motor Vehicles: Ins C §11580.9(c)  11.9
    • E.  Other Situations: Ins C §11580.9(d)  11.10
    • F.  Failure of Primary Coverage: Ins C §11580.9(e)  11.11
    • G.  Limiting Ins C §11580.9(a)–(d)  11.12
    • H.  Trucks and Trailers With Different Owners: Ins C §11580.9(h)  11.12A
    • I.  Self-Insurance: Ins C §11580.9(i)  11.13
  • IV.  LITIGATION BETWEEN INSURERS
    • A.  Insurer as Volunteer  11.14
    • B.  Rights and Duties Among Insurers; Statute of Limitations  11.15
    • C.  Contribution for Defense Costs  11.16

Selected Developments

October 2017 Update

The current update includes changes throughout this publication that reflect recent developments in case law, legislation, court rules, and jury instructions. Summarized below are some of the more important developments included in this update since publication of the 2016 update.

Accident. In Navigators Specialty Ins. Co. v Moorefield Constr., Inc. (2016) 6 CA5th 1258, the court defined an accident as “an unexpected, unforeseen, or undesigned happening or consequence from either a known or an unknown cause.” See §2.42.

Occurrence. For a recent case discussing the distinction between an “occurrence” and the resulting “bodily injury or property damage” and how “bodily injury or property damage” must occur during the policy period for coverage to exist, see Tidwell Enters., Inc. v Financial Pac. Ins. Co. (2016) 6 CA5th 100, discussed in §2.44.

Regular use. In Medina v GEICO Indem. Co. (2017) 8 CA5th 251, the court found that a company van was a nonowned vehicle because it was furnished for regular use by the employee even though she was a permissive user at the time of the accident. See §4.12.

Punitive damages. For two recent cases discussing punitive damages, see Bigler-Engler v Breg, Inc. (2017) 7 CA5th 276 (defendant’s low degree of reprehensibility and relatively low harm suffered by plaintiff, coupled with jury overestimating defendant’s net worth, required reduction in punitive damages award) and Nickerson v Stonebridge Life Ins. Co. (2016) 5 CA5th 1 (10:1 ratio was constitutional given high level of reprehensibility; $35,000 in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages), both discussed in §10.35.

Cancellation. In Mills v AAA N. Cal., Nev. & Utah Ins. Exch. (2016) 3 CA5th 528, an insurer canceled a policy after the insured failed to respond to a written request to either complete the form to exclude his son from the policy or call the insurer to add him to the policy. See §8.7.

Other insurance. If one insurer is a specific excess insurer and the other is a general excess insurer, the court may find that the specific excess policy attaches before the general excess policy. See Advent, Inc. v National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. (2016) 6 CA5th 443 in §11.4.

About the Author

Ralph A. Lombardi is a partner in the Oakland firm of Lombardi, Loper & Conant, LLP, where his practice emphasis is in the areas of insurance coverage and bad faith, medical and legal malpractice, and product liability. He has tried over 50 civil cases to verdict or judgment, including cases involving catastrophic injury, wrongful death, crashworthiness, design defect, and insurance bad faith. Mr. Lombardi received his A.B. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law in 1970. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and of the International Society of Barristers. He is also a past President of the San Francisco chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and a current member of the ABOTA national board of directors, a past director of the Association of Defense Counsel of Northern California, and a member of the International Association of Defense Counsel and of the Association of Defense Trial Attorneys. Mr. Lombardi is listed in the 2006–2012 editions of The Best Lawyers in America.

About the 2017 Update Author

RALPH A. LOMBARDI is a partner in the Oakland firm of Lombardi, Loper & Conant, LLP, where his practice emphasis is in the areas of insurance coverage and bad faith, medical and legal malpractice, and product liability. Mr. Lombardi received his A.B. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967 and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law in 1970. He is the author of this book.

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PRACTICE AREA Public Law
PRODUCT GROUP Publication