My 19 year old son is in college (in state) approximately 100 miles from home. He is a full time student and so has no income. I carry him on my auto policy and have the title in my name. I heard that I should re-title the car in his name so if he has an accident, the other party will not be able to come after me. Should I re-title it and is this scenario true? I also have a 1 million liability umbrella policy on the family.
Car / Auto Accident Lawyer
Tennessee does follow the Family Purpose Doctrine and you could be held liable under that if an accident occurs in furtherance of activity that benefits the family (yes, going to school counts). Changing the name on the title would necessitate informing your auto liability insurance company and probably mean you have to put the policy in his name which could cost more money. Additionally, in Tennessee having the car titled in his name is only a presumption of ownership. There are other factors: who pays for maintenance and upkeep; insurance; gas; etc... I agree with an earlier answer in that the best way to start is to talk with your insurance agent and see what the additional costs might be.
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As a general rule the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident is who gets sued, not the titled owner of the vehicle. However some states still have a family purpose doctrine - or something similar that provides if a vehicle is provided to a family member for their regular use then the owners of the vehicle share liability in the event of an accident. This may/may not apply in Tennessee (I don't know) and may/may not be affected by the change in title of the vehicle. However as your son is on the insurance policy and is driving the insured vehicle your policy is going to be first in line for defending your son (and you) in the event you are sued about an accident. The umbrella policy if it includes your son (check to ensure that children in college not residing full time in the home are covered) would then kick in, regardless of how the vehicle is titled.
Your best bet may be to ask your insruance agent if you have one, and if the answers you get are not satisfactory to meet with an attorney in Tennesse to address these issues. Good luck.
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Elder Law Attorney
Get your agent to quote it both ways. Make sure your agent has written notice of the current arrangement so you don't end up with a coverage dispute in the event of a loss.
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