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Richardson, Richardson, & Campbell Dec. 12, 2017

Some motorist insurance policies contain an exclusion of liability and uninsured coverage for members of an insured's household or family. Where these exclusions are enforceable, they would prohibit, for example, a husband, who was a passenger in a car driven by his wife, from recovering benefits under her insurance policy for injuries he suffered in an auto accident that she caused. One reason given for denying insurance coverage for members of an insured's household or family is a perceived difficulty of defending a lawsuit brought by an insured's household or family member against the insured.

Whether household and family exclusions are valid and enforceable in a particular state depends upon the decisions of the state's courts. Some courts have upheld the validity of these exclusions because they do not violate the state's public policy or state insurance laws. Other states have ruled that the exclusions are invalid because they do violate public policy and insurance laws. Some states enforce the exclusions as to liability coverage but not uninsured coverage.

Even though a state court finds these exclusions valid, it might conclude that they do not apply to the parties in a particular case. The court must decide whether the injured person is a family or household member of the insured under the motorist insurance policy. In one case, a court would not expand the definition of the term household to include unrelated roommates. In another case, a court found that a college student, who was injured in an auto accident caused by her father, the insured, was not a resident of his household. The student had become a resident of the state in which she attended college and only returned to her father's house for holidays.

Therefore, exclusions in a motorist insurance policy that deny coverage to members of an insured's family or household may or may not be valid in a particular case. Further, several factors must be considered before an injured party may be found to be a member of an insured's family or household. It is best to check current case law before accepting that these exclusions in a motorist insurance policy bar an injured person's recovery from the insured's policy.