Commercial Auto Insurance

What is DOC?

Presented by Christopher F. Hawthorne, CPCU, CIC

Often people own a vehicle that is in the name of a business with no vehicle in their personal name to be used both personally and commercially. This ownership structure puts one in a position of not having auto insurance coverage in certain situations.

Commercial auto policies work differently than MA personal auto policies. The MA personal auto policy will cover anyone using an insured vehicle if operating with the permission of the vehicle’s owner. The coverage will also follow the insured and those listed on the policy into any other personal vehicle as long as they are operating that vehicle with permission. It is a very flexible policy.

The commercial auto policy is not so flexible. The commercial policy states that it will cover those vehicles that are specifically listed on the policy. Also, the commercial policy will defend the commercial entity named on the policy. This design could leave the driver of a commercially owned vehicle in harms way when they are operating a vehicle not listed on the commercial auto policy.

EXAMPLE: A business owner is attending a family cookout, driving a commercially-owned vehicle and due to getting there early, his/her auto has been blocked in by other guests. The host asks him/her to run to the store for more ice and to take another guest’s car which is not blocked in. During the trip, he/she hits and injures someone, who then sues him/her as well as the owner of the vehicle. If the owner of the vehicle unknowingly had coverage cancelled for non-payment due to an oversight or if the owner simply carried very low liability limits, the business owner who is used to having $1,000,000 of protection from their commercial auto policy as well as possible umbrella coverage, suddenly finds himself/herself on the other end of a lawsuit with little or no coverage.

A solution is to add Drive Other Car (DOC) coverage to the commercial auto policy. This coverage will act as a bridge for when the business owner is using a vehicle not named on the commercial auto policy. When DOC coverage is added, it is added in the name of a driver. The coverage will protect the named person and a spouse. It is important to know it will not automatically cover any other family members. Therefore, each family member other than the spouse must be named separately. The typical cost is typically $300 to $350 per named driver.

A second solution is to purchase a Named Non-Owned Personal Auto policy.  This policy is the equivalent of a personal auto policy but without an auto (no comprehensive or collision coverage). These policies are more expensive ($800+) however they are more flexible and protect the commercial auto policy from claims arising out of personal auto use.