College Students and Auto Liability

A lot of people are getting ready to send their kids off to college. It will be the first time that most of them will have been away from home with little or no supervision. There are a lot of things that you need to take in to account when you are sending your kids away at school. We talked about a durable power of attorney and healthcare proxy so you will legally be able to find out about and make decisions for your adult child should anything happen to them while they are away.

Another thing to think about when sending your child to school is whether or not they are taking a car with them. When it comes to a car, there is a lot that you have to tell your kids. In a lot of cases, mostly for insurance purposes, the car being sent along is probably owned by you, the parents. As the owner of the car and the subsequent insurance policy, you are responsible for any damages that occur as a result of an accident with that car.

One thing to remind your child, whether you own the car and insurance policy, or your child does, is that the owner of the car is responsible for the car regardless of who is driving. If you are the owner of the car, you need to explicitly deny your child the ability to loan the car out to others, in writing, if necessary. If they own car, they need to be sure not to allow anyone to drive the car other than themselves. In college dorms, it is not uncommon for people to leave their keys out with the implied consent to allow roommates or dorm-mates to take the car to run errands, go to class, etc. You may know your child is a good and conscientious driver, but you do not know who else is driving the car and you do not know their skill level of driving or if they are into any activities that would put the car, lives, and property at higher risk leaving you or your child with a lawsuit on your hands due to someone else’s bad driving.

There are some ways to protect yourself.

1 – Most importantly, make sure you have sufficient coverage. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure your coverage is up to date, have sufficient SUM coverage; and ensure that insurance carrier is aware that the car is being used by the child at school.

2 – Almost as important is education. Make sure your child is aware of what his or her responsibility is when it comes to having a car at college. The vast majority of accidents can be avoided solely through education.

3 – Monitor the car. Trust but verify. There are car monitors that track speed, distance, hard braking, etc. Look into these systems for your child’s car. Many newer cars already have this technology built into them, check the owner’s manual or contact the dealer for more information.

4 – Place college residences on your insurance policies. In some cases, you may be able to add your child’s residence on your homeowner’s and umbrella polices. Check with your insurance carriers.

5 – If possible, register the car under your child’s name. At 18 years of age, your child is an adult and can own a vehicle. If the car is under your child’s ownership, laws imposing vicarious liability do not apply. In a lot of cases coverage for a college student is extremely expensive. Look into costs and consider your options accordingly.

Keep in mind that college students are among the highest risk drivers on the road. You want to protect your child, but you also want to legally protect yourself.

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