Handing the car keys to your child for the first time brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s a proud day for any parent to see their child take a major step towards adulthood. On the other hand, you worry about their safety behind the wheel. While your child’s safety is paramount, the liability that they pose to your insurance is probably on your mind, too. After all, it’s your insurance that’s on the line if they get into a car accident.
The good news is that your child is covered under your car insurance policy, even before you get a chance to formally add their name to the policy. In fact, everyone in your household is covered by the policy, regardless of immediate family status. You should still add regular drivers to your insurance policy (failure to do so is considered fraud in many states), but rest assured that your child is covered the moment they take the wheel with a valid driver’s license.
Who Is Covered Under a Car Insurance Policy?
If you were to ask this question to ten different people, you’d probably get ten different answers. Everyone has been told different stories by a friend, family member, or errant blog post, making it a challenge to separate fact from hearsay. Fortunately, the truth is pretty simple — everyone living in your house is covered by your insurance policy.
Everyone? Yes, we mean everyone. Whether your household includes a spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, minor children, adult children, or extended family, they’re covered providing they have a valid driver’s license. You’ll want to list all regular drivers on your insurance policy to avoid committing insurance fraud, but there’s no need to list people who occasionally take the car out for a spin with your permission.
Do I Have to Add My Child to My Car Insurance?
You only need to list a child on your car insurance when they regularly use the insured vehicle. If another car serves as their primary vehicle, or if they rarely use the vehicle in question, there’s no need to add them to your insurance.
Of course, that rule only applies as long as your child has a valid driver’s license or driving permit. If your child drives your car before they have a license or after their license is suspended or revoked, you could be in serious trouble.
How Long Can My Child Stay on My Car Insurance?
Children can remain on your car insurance policy as long as they’re a member of your household. Unlike health insurance policies that impose an age limit for removing children from a policy, your child may remain on your car insurance policy until they permanently move out.
What about children who are away at college or boarding school? The line becomes a little grey here, but for the most part your child can stay on your car insurance policy as long as the move is considered “temporary” (which school generally is). However, if your child gets married while at school and starts a family of their own, you’ll need to speak with your insurance agent to see if they’re still eligible to stay on your plan.
Who Is Insured to Drive My Car?
Anyone who regularly drives your car should be listed as an insured party on your car insurance policy. Failure to list a regular driver on your insurance policy may be considered fraud.
In Arizona, fraud charges carry the potential for a class 2 felony. Even if you don’t face criminal charges for insurance fraud, your insurance provider will drop you for failure to disclose important information.
Can Someone Not On Your Insurance Drive Your Car?
Car insurance follows the car, not the driver. As long as the person driving your vehicle has your permission and holds a valid driver’s license, they’re covered by your insurance policy. In the insurance world, this is referred to as permissive use.
Here’s how the doctrine of permissive use applies in common scenarios:
When an immediate family member drives your car – in this case, the individual’s immediate family status and the fact that they’re living under your roof automatically qualify them under your insurance policy. That means they’re insured by your policy, even when they drive without direct permission.
When an extended family member drives your car – when you have extended family in town for the holidays, it’s fine for them to drive your car as long as they have a valid driver’s license. The same goes for extended family who live nearby. If you need to lend your mother-in-law your truck for the weekend so she can move, that’s fine. However, when an extended family member begins to regularly use your vehicle, you’ll need to add them to your insurance.
When a boyfriend, girlfriend, or unmarried partner drives your car – when your significant-other lives with you, they should be listed on your insurance policy.
When a friend drives your car – it’s perfectly normal for someone to lend their vehicle to a friend, whether it’s to help out with a move, swap cars for a road trip, or transport a big screen TV home from Costco. As long as they have your permission, they’re covered by your insurance policy.
What Happens When Another Driver Wrecks Your Car?
As long as the driver is covered by the insurance policy — whether they’re directly listed on the policy, an immediate family member with implied coverage, or anyone else covered by permissive use — your car insurance policy will kick in to cover the damages. If there are any injuries, your car insurance policy will cover medical expenses and lost income after the injured party’s individual health insurance policy covers its portion of the medical expenses.
Unfortunately, the fact that your car insurance applies in this situation means you may find yourself listed as a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. It may seem unfair since you weren’t directly involved in the accident, but that’s the risk you take when you lend someone your car. If you ever find yourself in this situation, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.