Can Parental Discipline Trigger Auto Insurance Coverage?

Can Parental Discipline Trigger Auto Insurance Coverage?

As a Los Angeles accident lawyer, I try and stay current with court decisions that affect insurance coverage.

Last week, the California Court of Appeal decided an interesting case, as the title of this post might suggest.  The case is Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company v. Shimon.

Some background is important.  17-year-old Simone Lionudakis was driving a GMC pickup truck owned and registered to her father Phillip.  Phillip did not insure this vehicle because he wanted to save money.  He did pay to insure his other vehicle that he himself drove, just not the GMC truck that his daughter Simone drove.

Simone was at-fault for an accident in which two other people were hurt.  Those people sued, and during the lawsuit, they discovered that Simone’s mother maintained a separate auto insurance policy.  Because Simone’s truck was uninsured and no coverage was available, the plaintiffs tried dragging mom’s auto insurance policy into the fray.

Mom’s insurance policy contained a “regular use” exception.  What that means is that coverage is typically excluded when a driver regularly drives another car not listed on the policy.  The reason for the exclusion is “to prevent abuse by precluding the insured and his family from regularly driving two or more cars for the price of one policy.” (Highlands Ins. Co. v. Universal Underwriters Ins. Co. 1979 92 Cal.App.3d 171, 176).

Normally, Simone’s accident would have been excluded because she drove the GMC truck regularly.  This was exactly the type of conduct the regular use exception was intended to prevent.

However, Simone’s father Phillip made a creative argument.  He claimed that since he previously disciplined Simone for poor grades and restricted her from driving the truck on the night of the accident, his parental discipline should have superseded mom’s regular-use exclusion under her auto policy.

That would, in essence, trigger insurance coverage for his daughter Simone’s accident.  The purpose of this argument would be to shift financial responsibility of the accident away from himself and onto mom’s insurance company.

Too bad for him–the Court would have none of it!

The Court ruled that parental discipline does not render insurance coverage or the regular use exception inapplicable.  Simone’s disobedience does not void the insurance policy language, it simply makes her use of the automobile subject to further parental discipline!

Take note of this parents!  Besides for there being no short-cuts to paying insurance premiums for your teenaged drivers, any rules you impose on your children will not supersede your insurance policy contract!

For questions about your insurance coverage or your Los Angeles car accident, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist, 24/6!