Can an insurance company legally deny claims in a no-fault accident because of a blood alcohol content that's under the legal limit but is not 0? I'm in Wisconsin but references to any national rulings/regulations are welcome.

I just bought a new car and was wondering if running to the store after a beer would jeopardize my insurance. (I'm a 200+ lb male so impairment is not a concern)

  • In Wisconsin, somebody is always at fault, so what do you mean by a "no-fault accident"?
    – user6726
    Nov 27, 2016 at 0:51
  • 1
    @user6726 In the US & UK 'no-fault' accident insurance (particularly car insurance) became a buzz topic in the 1970's, with New Zealand (from memory) pioneering this kind of thing (I don't think it ever really caught on elsewhere with any degree of mass acceptance). I'm sure that Wisconsin, just like anywhere else in the common law US & UK, would allow the concept of lassiez-faire freedom of contract to dispense with 'fault' (establishment of tort of negligence) as between the contracting parties. However, fault-based tort law remains intact unless contract says otherwise. Nov 27, 2016 at 1:05
  • 1
    Okay, so you're saying that there is no-fault insurance marketed in Wisconsin. Insurance is not particularly laissez-faire in the US, so I can't find evidence that such insurance is legally allowed there.
    – user6726
    Nov 27, 2016 at 1:20
  • But anyhow, the question about the accident remains. There is no such thing as a no-fault accident. Perhaps a person's insurer can, by policy, always accept fault, but it can't force that position on the other guy.
    – user6726
    Nov 27, 2016 at 1:46
  • @user6726 An addendum: However, fault-based tort law remains intact unless [a] contract says otherwise AND SUBJECT TO ANY STATE OR FEDERAL LAW TO THE CONTRARY Nov 27, 2016 at 7:15

2 Answers 2


Bearing in mind that you are legally required to have liability insurance in Wisconsin (or a surety bond), and the reason for that is so that people can know with reasonable certainty (and not just hope) that if someone plows into them the guy at fault will cover the damage, you would expect that insurance policies can't be written so that the insurance company can wash their hands of the matter. So per Wisc. Stat 632.32(6)(b) in the liability insurance section of state insurance law,

No policy may exclude from the coverage afforded or benefits provided...

  1. Any use of the motor vehicle for unlawful purposes, or for transportation of liquor in violation of law, or while the driver is under the influence of an intoxicant ...
  • Quite so. This is an example of State legislation overriding any laissez-faire contractual agreement between a citizen-driver and his/her insurance company with regard to the legal consequences of (any?) alcohol consumed by the insured-driver prior to damage sustained to car. That's all fine and dandy, but we need to know at what level/measure such a driver is "under the influence of an intoxicant" as per the statute. The ellipses cuts us off from knowing that. Remember, the OP is saying any alcohol consumption. Can you inform us on this point? Nov 27, 2016 at 3:11
  • 3
    The remainder is about drugs. Since there can't be any exclusion of liability owing to intoxication, there won't be any mention of a level of alcohol. In other words, no matter how you define "under the influence" (.08 in that state) it still isn't allowed to exclude liability.
    – user6726
    Nov 27, 2016 at 5:10
  • I acknowledge this in my comment above. This is a simple matter of State legislation overriding a contractual term (as between the driver & his insurance company) that purports to do otherwise. The question remains as to what is meant by or amounts to "under the influence of an intoxicant". One might just as well ask the rhetorical question, 'How long is a piece of string?' I can see lawyers having a field day on this one. More to follow on the OP's scenario of just one beer! Nov 27, 2016 at 5:56
  • I have now edited my answer to the OP accordingly and acknowledged your contribution. Nov 27, 2016 at 6:04
  • I assume "coverage afforded" means "paying the damages of third parties". It doesn't mean your insurance can't then ask you to refund the money they paid out.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 28, 2016 at 8:50

The short answer is NO. But you must read the small print (terms & conditions) of your contract of insurance to ascertain exactly what it is that you signed up for with regard to the consumption of any alcohol.

EDIT: It would appear that State law (Wisconsin) has something to say on this matter as subsequently pointed out by user6726


Er...this is British humor! We Brits often sign off with this expression. Do our American cousins do the same?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .