Permission of Owner v. Reasonable Belief by Operator

Liability insurance policy language requiring “permission” by the owner to use a vehicle imposes a different standard than a policy requiring only a “reasonable belief” by the operator that he or she had permission of the owner to use the vehicle.

When the insurance policy requires permission by the owner, coverage exists only when the operator has the express or implied permission of the owner. The operator’s subjective reasonable belief will not suffice. This language is often applicable to users of covered vehicles under the policy.

When the insurance policy requires a “reasonable belief” by the operator that he or she had the permission of the owner to the use the vehicle, whether the owner actually granted express or implied permission is no longer an element. This language is often applicable to insureds under the policy using a non-owned vehicle.

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