Do I Need a Liability Waiver for My Kid’s Carpool?

It may still be a 100 degrees outside, but the school year has officially started in my house.

My girls have traded in their swimsuits and flip flops for scratchy plaid jumpers and white sneakers. Yes, my girls have to wear white sneakers for school, arguably the most impractical shoe choice of all time.

The girls have started school and I have started my school year gig as their driver.

Here’s a math problem for you. A mom has four kids, who are each in two activities. Three-fourths of these activities are sports teams and the remaining one-fourth are dance. Three-fourths of the sports activities require two practices a week, with one game on the weekends and a 50% chance of an extra game during the week. One-half of the dance activities require two practices a week. All of the activities are in different suburbs.

Questions: What are the odds the mom is able to drive her kids to all of their activities? What are the odds the mom will be tearing her hair out after one week?

Answers: Zilch and 100%.

No surprise I can’t personally chauffeur my kids to all of their activities. The solution? Carpools of course.

Being the overthinking lawyer I am, I can’t help but wonder two things. One, what’s our liability as carpool drivers? And two, should we have the parents of the kids we are driving around sign a liability waiver?

Liability? Check your insurance.

Any parent knows how distracting the commotion in the backseat can be when you are driving kids around. The constant chatter, the fights, the requests for snacks, the complaints about the radio…the list of distractions is endless.

If you are considering hauling kids around that are not your own, you should make a call to your insurance agent and review your policy.

In a car accident, you could be held legally liable for the injuries suffered by your passengers. Your liability increases exponentially with each kid you add to the backseat.

The good news?

Most (not all) personal auto insurance policies extend coverage for injuries to passengers riding in your car.

The bad news?

Your insurance may have restrictions on the size and type of vehicle it covers (important if you are driving someone else’s vehicle and thought your insurance covered any vehicle you drive). It’s also possible that your insurance excludes coverage for carpools.

Another serious concern? Policy limits. Remember what I said above about your liability increasing exponentially with each kid you add to the backseat? The reason is simple. A serious injury to one kid could mean thousands and thousands of dollars in medical and other costs. Multiple that by the number of kids you have in the car and it doesn’t take a math genius to see how quickly the numbers spiral out of control.

Even if your insurance policy covers the accident, the limits to your policy may be too low to cover all of the costs. If your policy limits are too low, either you pay the difference, or if your assets are not enough, injured kids are left without enough money to cover their care.

The solution? Make sure you maintain the highest liability limits possible, as well as an umbrella policy.

Liability waiver? Seriously?

Liability waivers. We sign them all of the time, but seldom read them as carefully as we should. I personally signed NINE in the last 24 hours for my kids and their various activities.

We may not read them, but we view them as some sort of Salvio Hexia, a shield that makes you immune to all liability hexes. They’re not.

For one thing, they have to be properly worded to be enforceable and there are certain claims that can’t be released. For more on that, check out Liability Waivers and Releases for Dummies.

For another thing, what kind of message do you think it sends to other parents when you ask them to sign a liability waiver. “Hey Sue, driving around with me behind the wheel is such an inherently dangerous activity that I need to have you sign this waiver before I can drive Junior home from soccer practice. You look kind of litigious.”

So what’s The Law Mother going to do? My auto insurance has the highest limits and I have an umbrella policy. And no liability waivers are required to ride around with me.

What do you think? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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