Insurance Claims for Damage Caused by Minors

Do you remember a few years ago when the mother of a 16-year-old boy who decided he was going to join a riot caught up with him as he was running down the street with the rioters? Remember how she ripped the mask from his face and slapped him so hard his jaw went sideways. She cussed him out and said no son of hers was going to show this kind of disrespect and sent him home. He sheepishly bowed his head and told his mother he was sorry as he turned to go home. He also later appeared on TV with his Mom where he praised her for caring enough to get him out of the mob of kids wreaking havoc that day. Do you remember the pride his mother had on her face when she spoke of the love she had for her son and how she would do it again if necessary but she knew it wouldn’t be required. 

 How about the two 8-year-old boys we will call Jeff and Tommy walking home from school? They noticed a house which appeared to be empty so they decided, just like you would skip rocks across a pond of water, to see if they could throw rocks far enough to hit the windows in the house. Tommy threw the first rock and it went crashing through the front door window. It made so much noise the two boys got scared and ran down the alley before Jeff could throw the rock he had picked up.

The next day as they walked past the house they could see the glass was only partially broken out, and not seeing anyone around Tommy started to dare Jeff to throw a rock to see if he could break out the rest of the window. Unbeknownst to the boys, the neighbor next to the unoccupied house had witnessed the rock throwing from the previous day and was waiting behind a shed on her property for the boys to come down the alley. Just as Jeff let into the temptation of the dare to throw the rock, she stepped into the alleyway, blocking their escape route. Somehow the boys eluded her grasp as she lunged to corral them, and as they ran they could hear her screaming she was going to call the police and they would be going to jail.

  Don’t know what Tommy did when he got home, but Jeff knowing he had done wrong told his Mom what he had done. She took him by the hand and walked back down the alley to where the crime had been committed. They walked through the back gate of the neighbor and knocked on her door. Frightened and scared to death, when the lady opened the door, Jeff confessed to having thrown the rock but didn’t want to go to jail so would repair and pay for the damage he had done. She told him she had called the police and that they were on their way to get a full report. Just about that time the front door bell rang. The three of them went through the house and greeted the policeman who was there to arrest the vagrant who had done the malicious deed. Through tears of anguish and fear, Jeff confessed to having done the damage and once again stated if he wouldn’t be jailed he would pay for the damages and make sure repairs were completed.

 The officer, seeing the terror in the young man’s eyes and knowing the Mom would make sure the promise was kept, placed his hand on his gun and leaning forward reprimanded the boy saying he would let him go this time but if he ever did something like that again he would haul him off to jail and he may never see his family again.

Lesson learned, adults had a good laugh, Jeff’s allowance was tapped and the local glass company repaired the damage.

 What does either of these stories have to do with insurance coverages? In a homeowner insurance policy provisions are spelled out where specific circumstances can be handled under insurable perils.

In the cases above, if the sixteen year old had in fact caused property damage in his flurry into lawbreaking, he would have had no recourse on his mother’s insurance policy since most insurance policies will provide property damage intentionally caused by any insured only through age 12. Once they have reached age13, specific contract language makes it clear no coverage is extended.

 It might be noted if a homeowner’s house along the riot route had been damaged, the homeowner’s own property and casualty policy could have provided coverage.

 In the case of the broken window where the boys were under age 13, the policies of the parents could have been used to provide financial assistance.

 Also, if the damages were caused by an unknown party, the owner of the home would have coverage from the specific peril of broken glass or the peril of vandalism and malicious mischief. Some other exclusions  may be applied if the house had been vacant or unoccupied for a specified period of time before the loss. Check with your insurance agent for details.

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