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Coverage Is DependentUpon Various Factors

Summary: The issue of whether an individual is a resident relative of the named insured often plays a crucial role in determining whether coverage is afforded or denied. For the most, homeowners, dwellings, and personal liability policies extend liability coverage if the individual is a resident relative of the insured. (Of course, there are exceptions, such as in the homeowners forms for a person responsible for an animal owned by an insured.) The personal automobile policy gives but also limits coverage for family members of the insured under certain circumstances.

The concept of resident relative status has been tested in litigation in varying circumstances and fact patterns. Several factors have been used by courts in determining resident relative or household member status, including living under one roof, physical presence or absence from the named insured’s household, relationship of the individual to the named insured, and others. This discussion reviews the outcomes of legal actions in an attempt to give guidance in understanding the concept of resident relative status and its affect on coverage.

For the effects of the exclusionary language regarding resident relatives, see Intrafamily or Household Exclusions .

Topics covered:Introduction Policy definitionsFactors determining status of household members Intent Formality of the relationshipLiving under the same roofOther residence?Separation and divorceChildren of divorceCollege—job training—armed servicesGuests or temporary residentsNonrelatives Concluding notes


Most property and casualty policies extend coverage to members of the named insured’s family or household under various conditions. Other policies, such as the personal auto policy, limit the coverage that is available to family members residing with the named insured. The language is not uniform in all forms, but the problem of just who is included in such extension or limitation arises regularly and is similar in many contracts.

It is difficult to draw many general conclusions from cases that have examined the issue of resident relative status. Each determination is closely tied to the particular facts of the case. However, a few generalizations can be made.

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