This article was originally featured on OnMilwaukee.com as part of the 'I Wish I’d Known' Legal Series.
Whenever there is a car accident and someone is injured, the topic of insurance will at some point become important. Under the Affordable Care Act, children typically are protected under their parent’s health insurance until age 26, or until they have their own coverage. So, medical expenses, except for deductibles and co-pays, would be picked up.
But, what if it goes beyond just medical expenses? If an uninsured driver strikes your child as a pedestrian or bicyclist, for example, uninsured motorist coverage under an automobile policy would typically apply. Without uninsured motorist coverage, you could be responsible for paying deductibles, co-pays for medical treatment, and could have other uncompensated losses from missing school or work. Or, what if your child is careless and causes damage to someone’s property? For example, maybe your child is jaywalking (late for class!), which causes a car to swerve into several parked cars. The jaywalking student may be held liable for damage to the parked cars.
Simple Tips From A Car Accident Attorney in Milwaukee
If the student has his or her own car or rental insurance, that would certainly provide coverage. However, if the student does not have individual coverage, he or she still may be covered under the family insurance policies, and that is where you need to look. Take a look at some simple tips from Milwaukee auto accident attorneys, and car accident lawyers in Milwaukee.
Think About Residency
While insurance policies are unique in the way they address this issue, the general rule is that a college student living away from home is covered, if the student is still considered a “resident” of the family household. The factors courts look at to determine if a student is still a resident of the family home include:
- Age of the student
- Whether a separate residence is established by the student
- Self-sufficiency of the student
- Frequency and the duration of the student’s return to the family home
- Intent by the student to ultimately return to the family home.
The courts will look to the address used on the student’s driver’s license, student loan papers, and bank accounts. The courts will also look to whether the student still has his or her old room in the family home and keeps significant possessions there.
A typical 18-year-old freshman, living in the dorms with the majority of his or her possessions at the family home will usually be covered under his or her parent’s car and home insurance. As the student gets older and more independent, moving from the dorm to an apartment, coverage under a parent’s policy becomes less certain. As a student moves on to grad school and gives up his or her room at the family home, moving most of their possessions into a new apartment, coverage becomes even more questionable. As connections with the family home disappear, it becomes more difficult to prove that a student is a resident of his or her parents’ household.
Talk to Your Insurance Agent
Have this legal issue analyzed as soon as the claim is reported, which should be as soon as practical. Soon after the claim is reported, the insurance company will want a recorded statement. When you give your recorded statement, the insurance claims adjuster will know what he or she needs to get you to say to give them a basis to deny coverage. You need to know what is relevant before the insurance company can figure out a way to trap you and deny coverage. The analysis of that residency situation needs to take place before you give a statement to the insurance company. That is the appropriate time to get some legal advice from a car accident lawyer in Milwaukee, to look at the language of your policy, and discuss your child’s residency situation.
It would be preferable to address this residency issue before an accident happens. As the student in your family heads back to school, you should fully and completely disclose their living situation to the agent, in writing or by email, and ask the agent to confirm coverage, or issue the appropriate endorsements so that the student is covered. There are so many variations in the policies and differing living situations, that it is impossible to formulate a general rule on whether a student is covered or not and what it would take to make sure there is coverage. You need to discuss this with the insurance agent that is selling the policy to make sure you have the appropriate policy and endorsements.
Insurance policies are, without question, difficult to read and even more difficult to understand. The reason a college student may be excluded can be hidden in the policy. Instead of just saying the coverage does not apply to college students staying in a dorm, they define the term “resident” or “insured” in such a way that they cannot include students. Each insurance company is different and uses different language in its policies. That is why you need to rely on your agent to issue the coverage that you are requesting.
Review Your Policies Annually
Take “back to school” time as an opportunity annually to review your insurance coverage and determine if it still fits your family needs. Some companies sell insurance only through “captive agents,” meaning they can only sell insurance products from a single company. If that company takes a restrictive approach to covering college students, you may be better off going to an independent insurance agent, who can sell policies from numerous companies. The independent agent will almost certainly be able to provide a policy that fulfills your family’s needs.
At Murphy & Prachthauser we are personal injury lawyers in Milwaukee who practice the law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.
If you have a case you would like to speak to a personal injury lawyer about, please contact us to schedule a free consultation and get an experienced personal injury firm in Milwaukee working on your behalf.