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I recently injured my hand and needed surgery. The injury happened on my father-in-law’s boat. There was no negligence on his part; I simply banged my hand on a railing while jumping in the water with my kids.

After my surgery I filled out a phone survey which my insurance company requested. The survey asked if the injury had occurred on the job, in a car accident, or on someone else’s property, and if I intended to hire an attorney.

I answered ‘no’ to all these questions, which was not really truthful. My reasoning was that this was in no way my father-in-law’s fault, and I saw no reason to complicate the process and share his information, possibly resulting in a hit on his insurance record.

Did I do the right thing? Am I legally or ethically obliged to inform my insurance of these circumstances, even though I have no interest in pursuing a claim against my father-in-law? Should I call my insurance back and clarify my answer, or let it lie?

I generally don’t like to lie and avoid telling even “white lies”, and I feel uncomfortable with the decision I made. However, this feels fraught in either direction. I’m worried they would pursue a claim against my father-in-law against my wishes, and I would rather they not have his information at all. Even if nothing comes of it, this could negatively impact our relationship if he feels I have needlessly dragged him into the process.

Does my insurance have a right to his information whether I like it or not? What is the right thing to do?

If relevant, I live in Illinois and my father-in-law lives in Florida where the injury occurred.

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  • I'm sure Stack Exchange is looking forward to the subpoena for this declaration of guilt. Mar 8 at 17:58
  • Does your policy limit coverage to injuries occurring only on your own property? Was coverage conditional on answering "no" to each of the questions you listed? If you had selected "yes", was there a field requiring you to disclose the location where the injury occurred? Mar 8 at 20:02
  • Suggest you see the latest comments to the answer by bdb484. A well-reasoned answer to your question turns on what your insurance company meant by "on someone else's property". If it means on someone else's premises / on real estate owned by someone else, you answered truthfully and have no worries. If it means "while on any physical object owned by someone else", such as a boat, a beach blanket or a bucking bronco, you answered falsely. Which sense of "property" did you think they were asking about within the context of the phone survey?
    – MTA
    Mar 12 at 19:25

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Your father-in-law's liability isn't really your question to decide. If your injury is covered under his insurance policy -- and it may or may not be -- then your insurance company has a right to seek coverage under that policy instead.

You have filed a false insurance claim, deliberately and with the intention of interfering with your insurer's ability to enforce its rights. That sounds a lot like insurance fraud, which is of course a crime under state and federal law.

What's the right thing to do? We can't really answer that for you. You of course would not be the first person to commit a felony to preserve familial harmony, but you should do so with your eyes open to the risks.

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  • If OP notifies the insurance company that actually they were wrong and the incident did occur on someone else's property (maybe they thought the question meant land and only later realized a boat should count), do they have any obligation to reveal whose? Or can they simply refuse to answer whose boat it was that they were on?
    – interfect
    Mar 11 at 13:29
  • I think that would correct the situation. Refusing to answer would probably be legal, I think, but it would also be a proper basis for the insurance company to refuse to process the claim; they're entitled to know whether there's another policy out there that covers the claim.
    – bdb484
    Mar 11 at 16:07
  • I think you're incorrectly interpreting "property" as "an object that belongs to someone" whereas the insurance company's question used "property" to mean "real property". Someone's real estate may have liability insurance that the insurance company is entitled to know about. But upon an object owned by someone else? No, that's not what they asked. If the OP were injured on someone else's beach blanket, were they on someone's "property"? The boat was on a body of water, no one's property, and the question was answered truthfully. The OP should have no concerns whatsoever.
    – MTA
    Mar 12 at 15:35
  • @MTA Ah, my rural roots are showing. I was imagining father-in-law's boat being in a body of water on his own property, but I think you're probably right that it was out on the ocean or something.
    – bdb484
    Mar 12 at 16:29
  • I don't think that changes the analysis, though. FIL likely has an insurance policy that covers injuries to passengers on his boat, so that would need to be disclosed, as well.
    – bdb484
    Mar 12 at 16:31

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