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 upward, dramatically.
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 well.
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