Washington Law Review


The presence of an omnibus clause in automobile insurance policies can be attributed to the highly competitive nature of the insurance industry. Basically, the omnibus clause is designed to give insurance coverage to an un-named person who is driving the policyholder's automobile with the latter's consent. A standard clause reads, With respect to the insurance for bodily injury liability and for property damages liability the unqualified word "insured" includes the named insured and also includes any person while using the automobile and any organization legally responsible for the use thereof, provided the actual use is by the named insured or with his permission or the permission of an adult member of his household. Coverage under the clause is broad as it includes (1) persons not named in the policy; (2) those who pay no consideration to the insurer; (3) those who are unaware of the clause and do not rely upon it; and (4) those to whom the insurer will not issue a policy. The purpose of this Comment is to explore two problems presented by the omnibus clause. First, to obtain coverage under the clause, the named insured must grant permission to the permittee to use his car. The concept of permission has been particularly troublesome; indeed, there is little harmony among the courts as to its meaning and application. The writer proposes to analyze the approaches taken by the courts toward the concept of permission, with a special emphasis on the Washington cases. Second, an interesting and related problem posed by the recent case of Wood v. Kok has suggested a study of the situation in which the named insured allows another to use his car, and he in turn delegates operation of the automobile to a third person.

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