Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Aug 6, 2021

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Key takeaways...

  • If you can safely operate a car, car insurance companies can’t discriminate against you because of a disability
  • Disabled drivers must be medically able to drive according to a medical expert if they want to keep their driver license
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for all carriers to charge disabled drivers higher rates
  • You need to be upfront about your mental or physical disability because your claims could be denied in the future
  • If you make adaptions to your car you must get special coverage for the modifications

If you suffer from a mental or physical disability, you’ll have to modify your lifestyle to enhance daily life.

While many persons with disabilities are intimidated at the thought of operating a vehicle for the first time, being disabled doesn’t automatically mean you can’t ever earn the privilege to drive. In fact, with technological advancements, even quadriplegic patients can sometimes drive. Cars have to be adapted to accommodate different methods of operation, but it gives people who previously had to depend on others to get around more freedom.

There are more than 60 million Americans in the country living with some form of disability.

Out of these millions of people, a large percentage of disabled Americans can drive. If you’re shopping for an accessible car, make sure you know how your disability might affect your ability to find car insurance.

Enter your zip code into our free comparison tool above to find the best rate for the car insurance you need.

Can Insurance Providers Exclude Disabled Drivers from Coverage?

Insurance companies must have some protective barriers written into their property and casualty contracts. That’s why a policy that covers all types of risk will have an entire section on the company’s policy exclusions.

Some of the most common exclusions are for damage caused by wear and tear, but there are more.

If you suffer from a disability, you might be classified as uninsurable depending on the condition. For example, if you have seizures, you may lose your license for 6 months or more after any seizure event. Losing your license would also make you uninsurable as a driver. If you get in an accident in the course of the seizure, you would also have a mark on your driving record driving up insurance premiums. What other individuals with disabilities may have to worry about not getting insurance?

Insurance companies are only justified in canceling a policy or declining an application for coverage if the driver has a condition that makes them medically unable to drive.

Basically, the same conditions that would make you ineligible for a driver’s license would make you uninsurable:

  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimers
  • Dementia
  • Arthritis
  • Severe eye ailments
  • Side effects of medication
  • Parkinsons or chronic disease

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Can Auto Insurance Companies Charge Disabled Drivers More If They’re Licensed?

If you’re medically able to drive a vehicle, insurance companies aren’t legally allowed to deny you coverage because you’re a disabled driver.

Protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act also prohibit insurance companies from charging someone with any type of disability higher rates. In other words, they have to evaluate your application and write your premium like they would for any other driver with your driving record, age, insurance history, etc.

If you’re charged more because of a physical or mental disability, it’s classified as an unfair and discriminatory rate. If you have reported your medical condition to the DMV, you’ll have to go through the medical review process.

You’ll have to prove documentation from your doctor to support your argument that you’re able to safely drive. The insurer may ask for these documents as well.

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What can you do if you feel you’ve been discriminated against?

If you’ve been denied insurance and you believe you were discriminated against, you have the right to contact your state’s department of insurance to file an official complaint.

The department will review your complaint and may penalize the company if the investigation shows there was discrimination. This also applies if your insurance plan is cancelled or not renewed due to a covered disability.

What rating factors can affect your premiums?

The ADA prevents auto insurance and other property insurers from charging disabled policyholders different rates but there is still a long list of factors that can be used to calculate your insurance premiums.

These factors are the same factors that will be used for any applicant:

  • Age, gender, marital status
  • Driving experience
  • Vehicle year, make and model
  • Claims history (at-fault accidents)
  • Non-fault accidents and comprehensive claims
  • Moving violations in the last three to seven years
  • Zip code where the car is parked
  • Credit-based insurance score
  • Occupation
  • Vehicle usage
  • Annual mileage
  • Any additional coverages you sign up for
  • Your car and its safety features

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Do Insurance Companies Have to Cover Disability-Related Car Modifications?

If you have a physical disability that requires you to modify your vehicle so that it’s accessible and easier for you to operate, make sure that you inform your insurance carrier. While insurance companies have to offer you the same coverage they would other drivers, any significant modifications require additional coverage. Just as people modifying their cars with new speakers, a lift kit, etc. would need to pay for additional coverage if they wanted to cover their upgrades, people with disabilities making (essential) upgrades to their car will have to do the same. If you don’t and your car is a total loss, your insurance company would have to honor your policy limits by replacing the car if you had full coverage. But it would be a car you couldn’t necessarily drive because of its lack of modifications. If you’re not sure, an insurance agent can help you compare coverages and get everything you need.

Unfortunately, you cannot install adaptive equipment to your car so that it will accommodate your disability and automatically expect the insurer to automatically cover the adaptations and equipment. Some of the adaptations that insurers will cover include:

  • Accelerator and brake pedal extenders
  • Adjustable seats for wheelchair access
  • Push-pull hand control
  • Auditory equipment like siren detectors
  • Amputee rings
  • Other mobility-enhancing additions that are permanently attached to the vehicle

What is adaptation coverage?

Insurance companies will exclude certain adaptions made to vehicles if the adaptations make the car faster. The necessary adaptations that are made to your vehicle to accommodate your disability should be covered at a reasonable price.

You’ll have to ask your insurer for adaptation coverage. Each modification may have to be named on the policy and you’ll have to provide receipts that show the value of the additions made. You’ll have coverage for the stated amount of your proof.

If you have mobility or adaptive equipment that’s not permanently installed in your car, you’ll need to look for coverage for the specialized equipment. Scooters and wheelchairs should have their own coverage, or they may be covered under your property insurance.

Can Disabled People Get Coverage When They Can’t Drive?

If you’re going to drive, you obviously need an auto insurance company. But what if you can’t drive? What if you require a specialized vehicle to get around, but you are temporarily unable to drive or you have someone else driving it for you? This happens more than many people realize.

If you have someone else driving on a regular basis, your insurance providers would want to have them named as a driver on your policy. Your rates would be based on their driving history and your car including the modifications. If you plan to get back on the road, you can temporarily reduce your coverage to state minimums with comprehensive coverage (to protect against storms, flooding, wildlife, etc.). You can also talk to your insurance company about the best options available to you to keep your insurance rates down.

Use our online rate quote tool to get instant car insurance quotes in minutes and you’ll find a value-priced plan you can’t turn down.