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June 4, 2015

Protecting students away at school

As students head off to college and universities, there are many risks looming which may need personal insurance protection.

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Each semester, millions of students head back to their colleges and universities. As a parent, you have probably already taught your child basic safety practices and arranged appropriate insurance protection for their possessions, which may be worth quite a bit in aggregate. However, there are potentially even more serious risks to consider.

Social host liability

If your son or daughter decides to host a party, whether or not there is alcohol involved, and a guest is injured on premises, significant liability can result. The stakes become even higher if a party-goer makes the wrong choice about whether or not to drive under the influence after leaving the gathering. Seemingly innocent horsing around between friends can result in injuries and lawsuits wherever the incident occurs. You can’t control your child’s behavior while away at school, but you can provide appropriate liability protection in case of a financially devastating settlement.

Social media and defamation

Then there’s the topic of personal liability and social media. The assumed anonymity of the web makes it all too easy to write and post whatever comes to mind. People, particularly young people, take advantage of that while forgetting that anything posted online is a public forum. IP addresses can be traced, libel can be committed even if a post goes only to select friends, and defamation lawsuits can carry hefty settlements. While case law catches up to the virtual world, students would be wise to review their school’s social media policy and remember the adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Auto accidents

We often hear that the insurance follows the car, but if your child is driving someone else’s car when an accident occurs, they could be financially responsible if the owner of the vehicle doesn’t have adequate coverage. On the flip side, if you have allowed your child to take your car to school, it could be your liability in question. Further, many insurance companies require they be notified if a car will be housed at a new address and some even require roommates to be added to the policy or they may deny coverage. Take time to communicate with your insurance advisor whenever there is a change to make sure your coverage keeps pace.

Identity theft and college students

Identity theft can ruin one’s credit rating and cost a significant amount of money and time to repair the damage. Most college students still have pristine credit, which makes them ideal targets of identity theft or fraud. To lessen the risk of identity theft:

  • Shred personal documents before disposal.
  • Review bank accounts and credit card statements regularly to identify fraudulent activity.
  • Protect smartphones and computers with advanced security software.
  • Avoid having private conversations on mobile phones in public places.
  • Don’t open suspicious email or web links.

Should an identity theft occur, having appropriate insurance in place will help with damage control. 

Talk to a trusted advisor

The issue of liability is often cloudy, whether it’s related to hosting a party or event, a social media faux pas, or auto accidents. It can get more confusing since these young adults are still part of your family, yet they may not be protected under the umbrella of your insurance. 

Discussing the risks will help your child avoid potentially ruinous situations, and considering fairly simple insurance solutions will help protect them in the event of a loss. Then they can enjoy the experience and focus on their education and you will be relieved of some worries as well. 

Potential liability scenarios are incredibly varied and determining appropriate coverage is an important decision. Sending your child away to school is a significant life event that can have various implications on your insurance program and their financial future. Contact an MMA PCS Personal Risk Advisor to discuss your family’s personal insurance needs.