Can I sue my husband if we are in a crash?

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Question: If our car is in my husband's name, can I sue him if we are in an auto accident?

Answer:  If you're asking if you can make a claim against the car insurance policy for the injuries you received, then we can tell you that normally this is not an option.

Auto insurance policies typically have a provision that excludes liability for the actions of spouses (and sometimes also other household members). In general, with insurance you can't make a claim against your own liability policies if you or your spouse causes damage to your own property or household members.

Most states consider a married couple to be one entity and responsible for each other.  Through the contract of marriage, it's usually found that items owned by one are also the property of the other.  By saying "our car" you take claim to the car as your own and thus have liability for what happens with it, even if it's injuring you as a passenger while riding in it.

You can't claim for your car's damages through property damage liability because that coverage protects you and your husband for when you damage others people's property. Your husband damaging your own car isn't covered; you'd need collision coverage for that.

Normally, one isn't allowed to claim against a spouse's bodily injury liability coverages because it's believed it would lead to fraudulent claims.  A couple could then get into an auto accident merely for the purpose of making a claim and collecting from the insurance company.

In a few states, it's possible to make claims against your spouse and car insurer, but it must be shown that your spouse's negligence directly led to your damages, and you may need special coverage to have this option.  For example:

  • In New York, you can obtain supplemental spousal liability (SSL).  It is an optional coverage that protects the insureds (up to the limit they choose) if they are found to be at fault in an accident that injured or killed their spouse. 
  • In Maryland, there is supplemental family member liability (SFML) that you can purchase.  This optional coverage protects insureds if they are found to be at fault in an accident that injured or killed a family member.  SFML has limits that are equal to the bodily injury limits you purchased.

Your state insurance regulator can tell you if your specific state laws allow you to claim against your insurer or sue your spouse due to damages you received in a car crash and if there is any supplemental coverage you'd need to allow this.

If instead you do want to sue your husband (so that your car insurance company will come to his defense), then we'd recommend you speak with a lawyer to determine your rights because state laws vary and we are not legal experts.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Insurance

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