Which household members are covered by your homeowner’s insurance?

In the case of Susan R. White v Vermont Mutual Insurance Company, the NH Supreme Court had occasion to comment on when an adult child could be considered a household resident entitling coverage under the parent’s insurance policy.

Susan White held a homeowner’s insurance policy from Vermont Mutual. Ms. White owned a home in Moultonborough and a home in Florida. She lived in Florida about half of the year. Her policy covered her and household residents who are relatives.

Ms. White’s son, Charles Matthews (Matthews) lived in the Moultonborough house during his high school years and then moved to Boston to attend college. After college he bought a building in Somerville, MA and converted it to condominiums. He lived in one condo and rented the others. He testified that he considered his condo his residence, but he registered his car in NH (to avoid paying for insurance) and was a registered voter in NH.

On July 3, 2011 Matthews and some friends stayed in the Moultonborough home (he had a key and would stay there from time to time). One of Matthews’s friends was injured at the home and brought a claim against Matthews for negligence.  The key legal question was whether Matthews was covered by his mother’s Vermont Mutual insurance policy.

The Court explained that in determining whether Matthews was a household resident for coverage purposes it looks at: (1) whether the person physically dwells in the claimed residence and (2) whether the person regards the residence as his/her home.

In this case the Court found that Matthews considered his Somerville condo his residence and primarily resided there, thus he was not covered as a household resident of his mother’s Moultonborough home. The Court noted that if Matthews lived in NH or even with his mother in Florida that could change the outcome. Because Matthews was not a household resident Vermont Mutual was not required to cover Matthews in this lawsuit.

It is important to keep in mind that if you are injured in a motor vehicle collision or in another person’s home you may be entitled to bring a claim against the insurance company that covers the parents of the driver/home owner depending on the facts of your case. This can be an important issue if the driver/home owner, like Matthews, has limited resources to pay for the injury you sustained.

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