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Joy Riding Teen Covered By Parents' Insurance

We buy insurance to protect us against unexpected losses. Unless insurance protects against those losses, it is not worth very much. As a recent case shows, covered losses can occur even if you are doing something you should not be doing.

The case involved a teen who was visiting a friend who was housesitting for a teacher. They decided to "borrow" the teacher's car without permission, and, while driving around, they had a collision. The visiting teen was badly injured.

His injuries were not covered by the owner's insurance, because the teens did not have the teacher's permission to drive the car. The injured teen then made a claim on his parents' uninsured motorist policy, which the insurance company denied. It claimed that the injured teen had been "using" the teacher's car, and the uninsured motorist policy did not cover injuries arising from "use" if the use was without permission. The teen argued that he was merely a passenger, and so he had not been "using" the car but rather "occupying" the car, and therefore the policy should cover him.

The court agreed with the teen. It looked to the terms of the policy, which defined "use" as the "ownership, maintenance or use." Because passengers usually do not own the vehicle and are not typically responsible for maintenance, the court found that the teen had not been "using" the vehicle. It went on to note that the purpose of uninsured motorist coverage was to provide coverage "on as broad a basis as possible where no other coverage is available," and that accepting the insurance company's argument would unnecessarily restrict coverage.

Although the teen made a bad decision, the insurance that his parents purchased protected him from some of the consequences of his decision, just as it is supposed to do.

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