While you didn’t give Junior permission to take your car out
for a joyride, you did leave the keys on the kitchen counter when you headed
out of town. Unfortunately, this could be more than enough for you to be found
liable if Junior gets in an accident and hurts someone, or damages their
vehicle. In a best-case scenario, your insurance rates are set to skyrocket,
worst case you could personally be on the hook for damages.
The rules for who is responsible for damages when a kid
takes your car without permission will vary by insurer and the specific
circumstances but most experts agree that there is a very good chance you will
personally be liable for the costs, especially if the teen is not licensed or
not on your policy.
A few policies will offer coverage to all members of your
household, regardless of whether they are licensed or not, while others will
only cover licensed drivers who are named on the policy. Most insurance companies will require you to
list all licensed drivers living under your roof as well as the names of
unlicensed drivers who are over a certain age.
The penalties for being less than honest when it comes to
putting newly licensed drivers on your policy can be steep. This can be
construed as material misrepresentation and is considered insurance fraud which
will more than likely result in a cancellation or nonrenewal. These policies
vary by insurer so be sure to check with yours.
In most cases, unauthorized use, whether it is your
teenager, one of their friends or a distant family member that takes your car
without permission will not be covered.
There are some insurers who will cover one incident but will
require the joyrider to be put on your policy and your rate will be adjusted
While you might hope that your homeowner’s policy would
help, it won’t, unless the joyrider ends up running into your house.
My Child Stole My Car
While unauthorized use will not be covered, theft usually
would be if you have comprehensive coverage.
Can you press charges against your own teen in order to
collect on your car insurance? While technically you could, most insurers will
still not pay out. According to experts, insurance companies do not consider
joyriding by a family member to be theft.
If you continue down this path, remember that reporting your
child will result in a police record which will stay with them for quite
awhile, as well as raise their rates when they actually become licensed. In
addition, if your joyriding teen did any damage to other people or their
property they will have to make a claim against their own uninsured motorist
coverage, or sue you to recover damages. Pressing charges against your own
child will often have repercussions that are simply not worth the effort.
Your best bet is to keep those keys with you at all times.
If your unlicensed or even licensed teen that is not on your
policy takes your car for a joyride without your permission you could end up on
the hook for the damages. Insurers have different policies towards unauthorized
use but many will not cover damages. Charging your child with theft is a risky
strategy that can cause not only coverage problems, but family problems as