I got an email last week from an IIABNY member whose client was battling with an insurance company over her teenage son. This client is a single mother whose son resides with his father. The son is of driving age, and his father has him listed on his auto insurance policy as a driver. However, the mother's insurer insisted on listing him (and charging for him) as well. Their reasoning was that the father carried only the state minimum limits for auto liability insurance, while the mother carried much higher limits. The carrier service rep wrote to the mother, "Since (your son) meets our definition of an insured person, if the coverage were to be exhausted on his policy due to a claim, it is possible that your policy would be secondary.” Is that true?
I don't think so.
The mother's policy had language very similar to that found in ISO's Personal Auto Policy, which states:
"We do not provide Liability Coverage for the ownership, maintenance or use of: …
3. Any vehicle, other than 'your covered auto'", which is:
a. Owned by any 'family member'; or
b. Furnished or available for the regular use of any 'family member'.
However, this Exclusion (B.3.) does not apply to you while you are maintaining or 'occupying' any vehicle which is:
a. Owned by a 'family member'; or
b. Furnished or available for the regular use of a 'family member'."
Therefore, if the policy is in the mother’s name, it will provide Liability Coverage for her while she is maintaining or occupying a car that her son has regular access to, but it will not provide that coverage for him. Thus, if he injures someone with a vehicle scheduled on his father’s policy, and that vehicle is available for his regular use, then only the father's policy will respond.
It's important to keep in mind, though, that if the son customarily has access to his mother’s vehicles when he is staying with her, the company is within its rights to price for that exposure.