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If you have a child, chances are you have already or will in the future sign your child's driver's license application as a sponsor. Wis. Stat. §343.15 mandates that any person under the age of 18 (with a few exceptions such as those with no living parent) who wishes to apply for a driver's license must have a sponsor. By sponsoring a driver's license, a sponsor agrees to be held jointly and severally liable for damages caused by negligent or willful misconduct of the sponsored driver. In most cases if your child is added to your insurance policy, you may have less to worry about (from a financial standpoint). However, if your child has their own car and insurance policy, you may want to review both of the policies.
In a recent Wisconsin Court of Appeals case, Progressive Northern Insurance Company v. David Jacobson 2011 WI APP 140, a minor (Jacobson) who owned his own car and carried his own insurance was driving his vehicle when he lost control of the car and crashed, killing two passengers. Because of her sponsorship Jacobson's mother (Link) faced liability from the estates of the two deceased passengers. Link's insurance company (Progressive) commenced an action seeking a declaration that it had no duty to defend and indemnify Link for her sponsorship Liability. Progressive pointed to an exclusion in Link's insurance policy which would not cover damage associated with a relative's vehicle unless liability arose from Link's maintenance or use of the vehicle.
The estates tried to argue that Link's sponsorship of Jacobson's driver's license would constitute a "use" of the vehicle sufficient to force Progressive to provide coverage. Although Wisconsin courts have ruled that for insurance purposes "use" does not always involve the direct, physical operation of the vehicle, the concept of use through sponsorship was not enough to force Progressive to provide coverage.
* Please note that this is general information only and not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or need legal advice please setup an appointment with our attorney, or an attorney of your choosing.
Russell is an attorney with Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers. Russell represents injured clients in Hudson, New Richmond, River Falls, Prescott, Ellsworth, Roberts, Osceola, St. Croix Falls, Menomonie, Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and surrounding areas of Wisconsin.
Nicolet Law Firm has offices in Eau Claire, WI, Hudson, WI and Woodbury, MN and handles car accidents and other personal injury claims. For more information call 1-855-NICOLET or visit www.nicoletlaw.com.