No-Fault insurance lawyer answers the most common questions for parents aiming to keep teen drivers safe
There’s a new teenage driving law in Michigan – that restricts passengers of teen drivers and only allows them to drive until 10 p.m. In addition to questions about the new law, our No-Fault lawyers have been getting many questions from concerned parents on insurance coverage for teen drivers, especially during this time of college graduation.
We realize that parents are trying to save money on their kids’ car insurance. And trust me, we recognize that the cost of insuring a teen driver is expensive – auto insurance is one of the few areas where it is legal to discriminate on the basis of age, after all. But many parents are making huge mistakes by trying to save a few dollars.
The biggest mistake I see regarding teen drivers is not listing your teenager as a “named insured” on your auto insurance policy. This is very dangerous. And if your teen causes (or is injured in) a serious car accident when driving a car that she normally drives but is not listed on as a “named insured” or “named driver,” there can be disastrous consequences. These consequences include your child’s medical bills not being covered by your own auto insurance company, and being barred from suing an at-fault driver who causes serious personal injury to your teenager – even when your teen is completely innocent.
That’s why I’m posting frequently asked questions below, with answers on the best automobile insurance coverage for your new teen drivers.
Q. My child is now a teen driver. What changes do I need to make to my auto insurance to make sure my teenager is protected under the Michigan No-Fault law?
A. A parent must inform his insurance company that there is a new licensed driver in the home. Parents are also supposed to list the primary driver of each vehicle (named-drivers). If parents purposely avoid listing their teenagers, either as living in the house or as named-drivers, this could be considered insurance fraud, and coverage can be canceled by your insurance company where the policy is considered void ab initio.
Q. What is the best level of coverage for my teen/college age driver?
A. Assuming the teen has her own separate auto insurance coverage, the minimum policies she should carry should be $250,000/$500,000 for bodily injury (personal injury if she causes an auto accident) and $250,000/$500,000 in Unininsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM). If the teen is on her parents’ policy, her coverage is the same. Every person should purchase UM/UIM. It is the best insurance coverage, and many people know nothing about it. Ask your agent about this coverage, and if your insurance company doesn’t offer these important Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage, you should find a new insurance company to properly protect you and your family.
Q. How should a family’s policy be structured if the teen drives a parent’s car versus having his own car?
A. A teen should be listed as a named-driver, so the auto insurer can never say that it was unaware that there were teens in the house or that the teens drove the car. If the teen owns the car, then the teen really should be a named-insured or co-named-insured.
Q. If a teen is driving her car and the passengers are injured in an accident, how are those passengers covered by the Michigan No-Fault law?
A. The order of auto insurers would be the same as any car accident:
1. The passenger would receive No-Fault benefits through his own insurance.
2. If the passenger does not have auto insurance, then he would receive No-Fault benefits from a resident-relative.
3. If that relative is not covered, then the passenger would seek benefits from owner of the car.
4. If the car owner is uninsured then the passenger would receive benefits from the driver of the car.
5. If all else fails, the passenger would look to the Michigan Assigned Claims Facility for No-Fault benefits.
Q. What can a parent/teen do to make sure the teen is protected while riding as a passenger in a friend’s car?
A. As long as the teen or resident-relative has insurance, the teen is protected by the Michigan No-Fault law and can receive all of the No-Fault insurance benefits in case she is injured in a serious car accident. As long as the teen is not operating an uninsured vehicle that she could be considered an owner of by frequent use (constructive ownership), she is going to receive No-Fault insurance benefits from somewhere (see answer to previous question).
Q. How can teens and parents minimize the costs and premiums of their auto insurance policies while still being fully protected? (higher deductible, etc?)
A. Once the proper insurance coverage has been determined, call an independent insurance agent that represents several auto insurance companies, to determine which insurer will give the best rate.
– Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers handling serious car accident injury cases and auto No-Fault litigation. Steve speaks and writes extensively on safe driving and Michigan’s auto laws, and is available for comment.
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