Do disabilities affect car insurance rates?

Insurance companies can't discriminate against a driver who is disabled. While there are a lot of factors that go into setting rates, disabilities are not one of them.

Bill Fertig, director of the Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center, said that insurance companies can’t directly discriminate based on your physical abilities.

"You can have some agent make a personal judgment and never say anything and you'd never know it, but you cannot have any discrimination from insurers based on people having a disability of any kind, so I don't consider that a problem," he says. "But it's very important to be upfront with your insurance agent about what exactly you have and how much your cost was," he says.

However, some factors related to a disability can affect your rates, including vehicle modifications and medical equipment on board. 

An example: If you drive a generic car and just modify it by adding simple hand controls. The controls could cost $1,000 and your car might be valued at $4,000. If something happened, such as a crash, you would want to be compensated for not only the car’s value but also the tool’s value. In this example, the hand controls.

"The way they do that is they apply a rider -- just an additional little insurance product to your account to cover your hand controls,” Fertig says. 

You wouldn’t want to have to replace the hand controls out of your own pocket. However, $1,000 to do that would be nothing compared to someone who has a modified van with sophisticated controls, such as a Scott Driving System. Those go for $100,000 and up. 

So if you add those to a $30,000 minivan, and get into a crash, you don't want to just get the minivan replaced for $30,000, you want to get the entire vehicle replaced for $130,000. It's another case of being upfront about what you're insuring and how much it costs to replace.

Does car insurance cover medical equipment in your vehicle?

Car insurance will cover any equipment that is attached to the vehicle, as long you've got the right coverage on your policy. 

“However, just as in the case of a vehicle that has been modified with after-market wheelchair accessibility equipment, it's much better to have a pointed discussion with your auto insurance agent at the time of initiation of the policy about the additions, possible ramifications of the chair damage and cost, etc. Then, a rider can be written to accommodate that exact need and the policy language can be agreed to up front. This will allow for a much quicker and more seamless coverage and repair process in the event of an accident,” Fertig says. 

It's important to note that personal property that is not attached to the vehicle is covered by home, not auto insurance.

Can insurers force a disabled driver to switch to modified controls? The quick answer is no. According to Fertig, only your state department of motor vehicles can do that.

Another possible area for discrimination against disabled drivers could lie with rate increases. But Fertig says that this practice is illegal.

"Disability-related insurance rate increases are clearly discriminatory. If you have an accident, or two, and you have your rates raised due to your driving record, you may have your rates raised. I would argue that any attempt to raise one's auto insurance rates based solely upon the fact that the driver has a disability should and would be met with an immediate civil lawsuit," says Fertig.

What type auto insurance coverage do disabled drivers need? 

No matter the driver, you’ll want to weigh how much liability insurance you need and what to do about comprehensive and collision coverage

Fertig says a new high-priced vehicle needs collision coverage on top of the liability coverage. 

"With a new vehicle, especially something with a base value of $30,000, then $20,000 more in vehicle adaptations, yes, you must insure against the loss of the $50,000 by purchasing collision,” Fertig says. 

If you have a loan on your vehicle you will likely be required to carry a full coverage policy, and of course you are required to meet all state insurance requirements. It's wise to carry higher liability limits, however, as state minimums are rarely adequate.

Find out more about other types of insurance and disabilities: