Wednesday, September 26, 2012

'Tis the season for back to school: A parent's guide to the hidden dangers of carpooling

What is it about back to school that makes you think of getting organized, new school clothes, and a brand new set of colored pencils? While kids are full of excitement and jitters of the new school season, seeing their friends and making new ones, as parents, you are probably just as excited to get them back to the normal routine. And if you are like most busy parents that means you are driving your kids to the thousands of afterschool activities like soccer, dance, football, band, concerts, etc. In some cases, this means you are also carpooling everyone else’s kids around as well. And why wouldn’t you? If I am taking Tommy to football, of course I am going take his best friend Frankie who is playing on the same team as him. But did you know that as a parent, your good deed could come with consequences? And those consequences could come with law suits if say you ended up in an accident with other people’s kids in the car.
Yes, in the event of an accident, especially in today’s litigious society, if little Frankie got hurt, Frankie’s mom and dad are most likely going to sue you. So, what can you do to prevent this? I mean after all, you don’t want to be rude and leave Frankie on the side of the road because you are afraid of all of the “what-ifs” that could or would happen. And I am sure he would look at you like a crazy person if you told him, “I’m sorry I don’t want your parents to sue me for my house and Tommy’s college fund if I accidentally crash my car with you in it.”  I’m way over 10 years old and even I would look at you like a crazy person if you told me that.
But you can do what I suggest all of my clients to do, prepare for the worst but hope for the best. I know that may sounds a bit dramatic, but there is a method to my madness. There is…a plan. You can do this by starting to take a closer look at your auto liability insurance and even look into an umbrella policy.
Umbrella policy? I know, many people, even my brother did not know what an umbrella policy was. No, it’s not protection for your umbrellas, which is the first image that comes to mind. An umbrella policy is additional liability insurance which covers you over your auto insurance and your home insurance. In other words, this would pick up where your auto policy drops off, in the event that you didn’t have enough insurance. Usually this coverage starts at $1,000,000 in additional coverage over your auto insurance and can go up to $25,000,000 or higher depending on your needs. I know your next thought is probably, “$1,000,000? That sounds expensive!” But surprisingly for an extra $15-$20 per month, you can purchase this coverage and the best part is…it covers over the home insurance as well.
Now for the auto, my suggestion to many people is to take as much coverage as you can afford. I know things are tight today, so if you cannot afford to take the umbrella policy in addition to the car insurance, I would increase that liability to the highest your company will allow you to go. Usually this increase is not as much as you think it would be. It could be as little as an additional $5 a month for twice the amount of coverage. It’s a lot cheaper than having Frankie’s parents sue you and finding out you don’t have enough coverage.
And what happens then if you don’t have enough you ask? Well they can garnish up to 25% of your wages and go after any assets you own – i.e. your home. Does the $5 extra a month sound like a good deal? Heck, to me $20 a month sounds like a good deal at that point.
I know that this might sound a little overly prudent, but I wanted to make you aware of the risks of carpooling. And although I know your intentions are good, nobody plans to have an accident. That is why they are called accidents. And while Frankie’s parents might come over for game night at your house, if you got into an accident with their child, they most likely will sue you if it was bad enough.
Better to know you have the proper coverage now, than to find out later when you really need it. Not sure how much you have or what is enough? Or do you not know what everything means? We speak insurance here and can help you figure out how much is enough insurance.
Call me, Amy Bryan at 845.565.2200 or 888.565.2212 or email me at today to find out more information about how to protect your family the right way. You can also visit us online at