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Exchange Student - 18yr old - auto liability - policy limits

Atlanta, GA |

We have an exchange student living with us and enrolled at a local college. He is now 18 years old and will continue to live with us for the forseable future. He is currently on our insurance policy which is expensive due to the high liability limits we have in place.
We think, perhaps, he should purchase his own policy and put the car he drives in his own name (instead of my name).
He has no significant assets. He could get his own policy and save quite a bit by having minimum liability coverage. He sometimes transports our kids.

In the unlikely event that he is involved in an accident, is found at fault, and the damages exceed his policy, is it possible that we would be sued?
Two possible scenarios:
1. He drives HIS car and is at fault in an accident.
2. He drives one of OUR cars.

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Attorney answers 3


Yes. If he drives one of your cars, your ins policy would be primary, and his would be secondary. You could be sued as owner, and possibly on other theories, like negligent entrustment.
If you give him a car, you could theoretically be sued for doing that if they allege you knew he was not a safe driver. You could be sued if he causes an accident while he is doing something for you, like taking the kids to school.

By carrying minimal limits, he runs the risk of being seriously injured in a crash not his fault, caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver, and then being left w/o a source for adequate compensation. This is why you should always carry um/uim coverage at least equal to you liability coverage. If he has 15/30 the most he can get in the above example an uninsured motorist case is 15k.


I'm admitted in California, not Georgia, so I have to qualify that my answer is based on California law. It may be true in Georgia also, but you should double check with a lawyer there:

1. No, you could not be sued since you are neither the operator of the vehicle nor the registered owner. You could be sued for your independent negligence in some other somewhat far out scenarios, e.g., you serve him alcohol and let him drive.

2. Yes, you could be sued as a registered owner. In California, the registered owner would be legally liable up to a statutory maximum. You could also potentially be sued for "negligent entrustment" since you are allowing him to drive a vehicle you own. Liability under this theory would require knowledge of facts that make the student a dangerous driver, e.g., past reckless driving.

Your idea of having him get his own policy is not bad.

Good luck.


If he is driving one of your cars with your permission, it is conceivable that you could be sued.

If he is driving his own car with his own insurance, you could not be sued. If your kids are traveling with him in the car, he gets in an accident, your kids are injured, you could actually bring a claim against him and, if the value of the claim exceeded his policy limits, potentially bring a claim against your own insurance for UM coverage.

This response is provided for informational purposes only. It is not a consultation and is not legal advice. You should not act or fail to act in reliance upon the information provided in this response. This communication does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and our Firm. You should always consult with an attorney prior to taking any action with regard to a potential legal problem.

Noel H. Benedict

Noel H. Benedict


I partially agree. If the exchange student were to have an accident which was his fault with your kids in his car or performing some other errand for your household, you could be liable under what is called the Family Purpose Doctrine. If he has his own car and his own policy, but he is living in your household, your insurance company may insist he be excluded as a driver on your policy as part of your rate reduction. If he is an excluded driver, he cannot drive your car.

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