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Newsletter

6Dec. 2015

Life Changes! Review Your Listed Operators

Life is all about change. Families grow and evolve through marriage or divorce. Kids grow up and become drivers and then eventually move out to start their own lives. Through it all, it’s important to note that each ebb and flow should prompt you to reevaluate who is listed as an approved operator on your auto policy.

Insurance companies require that household members must be listed on your policy. A “household member” is defined as anyone living in your home who is related by blood, marriage or adoption. This includes wards, stepchildren or foster children, and they all are required to be listed on your auto policy as an operator.

Those who frequently drive your vehicle must also be listed.

Sometimes, it’s not exactly clear who is a household member, or what defines “frequently.” And what about teenaged drivers when parents are divorced? What about your students in college?

Even I wrestle with these questions. After my fiancé, Dana, and I began living together, I had to determine whether to list her on my policy. She had her own car and I drove mine. Reading the policy, "fiancés" are not included in the definition of a “household member” that must be listed as a driver. In the end, it made sense to list Dana because she regularly drives my Jeep to transport our two dogs to the dog park.

Likewise, when my son Colin moved to New York City, I had another decision to make. Colin is 21, has his own apartment in Brooklyn—and hence his own address—and works in the city during all his breaks from college, where he is a senior. Since Colin could not reasonably be considered a household member, I determined he need not be listed.

Serious gray issues, I know. That’s why we are always happy here at Webber & Grinnell to talk with our clients, or rather, to listen. We’ll help you make some of these tricky calls. Our general mantra is that when there is some doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Under normal circumstances, we’ll tell you that kids at college should remain on their parents’ auto policy as an operator because they’ll have personal injury protection as pedestrians; if they get hit by a car while walking, for instance, their medical expenses will be covered. Equally as important, if they drive someone else’s vehicle while at school, and that person is under- or uninsured, the parents’ policy will offer the protection they need.

In the case of a divorce, what we usually tell people is that kids should be listed on the policy of the parent whose address corresponds to the child’s license. If your address is on your son’s license, he should be listed as an operator on your auto policy.

I know, the down side of listing your kids is it costs money, especially when your child has less than three years’ experience as a driver. It can hurt, but trust that it is far more painful when you fail to list a child and there is an incident that goes uncovered.

Failure to list a household member may have serious consequences. If you or someone else gives false, deceptive or incomplete information, your insurance company may refuse to pay your claim, and we may also cancel your policy.

There are a few bright sides, though. Ask your account manager about the “student away from home discount,” which college students may be eligible for if they are more than 100 miles away from home and don’t have access to a vehicle. “Good student” discounts are also available with a GPA of 3.0 or better.

Enjoy what comes your way in life, and when you see change happen, let us help you make a judgement call with the gray areas.

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