Accident Insurance Coverage for Family Members or Permitted Users in Indiana

Under Indiana law, an insured person under an automobile insurance policy may include the "named insured" found on the policy declarations page, a "resident of same household" if permitted by the policy, and a "permissive user."

Common insurance policy language defines a named insured's "family member" as "a person related to you by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of your household." In determining whether a person residing in a named insured's household is a "family member" under this provision, Indiana courts consider (1) whether the person for whom coverage is sought maintained a physical presence in the named insured's home; (2) whether the person had the subjective intent to reside there; and (3) the nature of the person's access to the named insured's home and its contents as well as evidence indicative of the person's living habits.

Indiana follows a liberal rule in defining a permissive user. The focus is on whether the person's use of the vehicle was restricted in the first place, rather than whether the user deviated from a permitted use. Express permission is not required, as consent or permission to use a vehicle may be implied from the circumstances of the case. The fact that the user deviates from the authorized use of the vehicle is immaterial on the issue of whether the motorist is a permissive user; the focus is upon whether the person is authorized to use the vehicle in the first instance.

Example of Permitted Use

A woman who was a named insured under an automobile insurance policy gave permission to her daughter to drive her car. The daughter gave permission to her son to drive the vehicle. The son then gave permission to his friend to drive the car. The friend caused a collision. The Indiana courts found that the insured's grandson's friend was a permissive user, even though the woman would not have contemplated that her grandson's friend would be driving the car. Because the woman did not restrict her daughter's use or control of the vehicle, and the daughter did not restrict her son's use or control of the vehicle, each successive person was a permissive user of the vehicle under the insurance policy. Learman v. Auto Owners Insurance Company, 769 N.E.2d 1171 (Ind.Ct.App. 2002).

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