'Car surfing': Does this look smart?

A youngster riding on top of a moving vehicle -- what could go wrong? When something does, here's who pays.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 23, 2011 1:33PM

This post comes fromGina Roberts-Grey at partner site Insure.com.


"Insure.com on MSN MoneyCar surfing," the death-defying extreme "sport" that has claimed the lives of thrill-seeking teens and young adults nationwide, is a trend that driving-safety experts, parents and auto insurance agents wish would come to a stop.


Car surfing is an extremely dangerous activity where people sit or stand on moving cars as though they were "surfing." Man riding on roof of car © Chris McPherson/Getty Images
In some instances, "surfers" try to hop from one moving vehicle to another, emulating the recklessness and wild abandon of a Hollywood stuntman. However, stuntmen have training -- and often padded suits.


Len Pagano, president and CEO of the Safe America Foundation, says even though car-surfing occurs more frequently in rural areas, kids everywhere are hopping on the roofs, hoods and trunks of cars, trying to ride them like a rogue wave off the coast of California.


"Like many other unsafe driving acts, kids usually take part in car surfing out of peer pressure or to pursue the perceived thrill that comes from it," he says.


Not only do these young people risk their lives and the lives of those around them, they also jeopardize the car insurance coverage of the cars' owners -- who in most cases are their parents.


Car surfing insurance liability
If a car surfer falls off the vehicle but is lucky enough to escape with all his limbs and cognitive functioning intact, industry analysts say the car owner could still be in for an unpleasant surprise from a car insurance claim. Article continues after video.

If the person surfing is injured, he can file a claim against the driver's car insurance policy for medical bills and damages. Unless the car surfer himself is found to be negligent, that claim will go on the car owner's insurance record and possibly lead to an increase of their car insurance rates.

"Each state has their own laws on 'contributory negligence,' which means if the surfer is found negligent . . .  the claim may not be paid," says Allstate Insurance spokesperson Hyacinth Tucker. "However, the [car owner] would likely need a lawyer to fight the claim in court."


"In a majority of states, the driver would be responsible and a claim could be paid," says Ashley M. Hunter, an instructor at Kaplan Professional Schools and former adjuster for State Farm Insurance.


And if the surfer dies as a result of the stunt, the car owner may be liable for that death, says Hunter.


Tucker says there are different polices that may be called upon to pay if car surfing results in property damage or injuries.


Here's who pays for what:

  • The car being surfed is damaged. That claim is filed under the driver's auto insurance policy -- but the driver would need collision insurance to make a claim. If the driver does not carry collision insurance, he would have to pay for repairs himself.
  • There is property damage. If the damage is done by the car, the driver’s car insurance liability policy will be responsible for payment. Tucker says, "If the property damage is done by the surfer when he flies off the car's hood and is thrown into property, the surfer may be liable for that claim."
  • The driver is hurt. The driver's health insurance plan or car insurance policy (or both) could pay. The driver would need MedPay or personal injury protection (PIP) on his car insurance policy in order to make an injury claim for himself.
  • The surfer is hurt. The car surfer could make a claim for injuries under the driver's liability policy, or PIP coverage, says Tucker.

Surfing your way to car insurance problems
The financial fallout for car surfing can be widespread. Surfers and drivers can suffer debilitating injuries. Owners of damaged property can file insurance claims and lawsuits against the driver. And the parents who own the car will ultimately be on the hook -- even if they had no knowledge that their teen was car-surfing.


Car insurance companies will hold you irresponsible for handing over the keys to your car-surfing kid.


The ramifications could go beyond high car insurance prices.

"It's very likely that a policy will not be renewed and insurance would need to be obtained through companies that are willing to cover high-risk drivers," adds Hunter.


"If the policy is renewed, the driver behind the wheel during the surfing incident could be excluded from future coverage on the policy," adds Tucker.


Read more from Insure.com and MSN Money:


Feb 24, 2011 9:10AM
I call activities like this "Thinning the Herd." We let darwins law take effect - the stupid and weak die and smart survive.
Feb 24, 2011 10:08AM
Looks like Darwins law will continue to be proved correct!
Feb 24, 2011 11:15AM

As far as the video goes, I agree with Joe Kernin. The worst thing when driving on a highway is when people treat the left and right lane the same and they won't move out of the fast lane. I have heard people say that they think they are the police and are trying to prevent people from passing them. The funny thing about these apps is that the person trying to rat on someone is probably using their iphone while they are driving!

Feb 24, 2011 11:22AM

When you crash like this you are totally exposed. Motorcyclists wear helmets to protect their head. They wear specially armored and protective jackets, pants, boots and gloves to help prevent damage from blows to the body and road rash which is the grinding away of your skin on the road. Ever fell on the asphalt as a kid and cut up your hands or body? Try that at  20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 etc miles an hour!  If you would see the consequences of what can happen you would never just jump on a car and speed off down the road like that. People go to the hospital and have to get the asphalt removed from their skin depending on the speed they need skin grafts or in the worst cases things get worn down to the bone. That is aside from having those bones broken and internal injuries.  Just for a moment of fun you could pay a high price.

Feb 24, 2011 9:02AM

Like the Allstate person said the insurance company isn't going to pay for this it's all spelled out in your policy.  So, you will have to find a lawyer if someone gets injured. There are two people being stupid people here, the person "surfing" and the driver. The lawyer wins and you both lose.

Feb 24, 2011 12:59PM

This is not new.  Kids were doing this in Bordentown, NJ in the late 1950's, on dirt roads in the woods.

It was stupid then and stupid now.  Nothing new, just kids with lack of any sense of  judgement 

Feb 24, 2011 12:44PM

I was riding with a co-worker to a jobsite to service an elevator at a treatment center about 8 months ago. As we got closer to the building, we observed a car in the middle of the road, and a girl (who appeared drunk) falling over and over as her friend tried to pick her up. We got about 20 feet or so from them and we both were shocked to see blood all over the girl's face. I told the guy driving to pull over and call 911 so I could go help. I rushed over and started first aid on the girl, as her two friends began telling me what happened. The image stays in myt head to this day....she had blood coming out of her nose, head, and EARS! (not good) I stayed with this poor girl until the ambulance arrived....there wasn't much I could do other than monitor her vitals and try to keep her shaded. I don't know what happened to her after that, the hospital wouldn't tell me anything. I'm sure you all can guess what these kids were doing before we pulled up.

Feb 24, 2011 1:38PM
Then we need Judges smart enough not to let parents of dumb kids get a financial windfall from thier kids stupidity.
Feb 24, 2011 12:56PM
Really?  I mean REALLY?  Even in my teen years I don't think I ever even considered doing something this stupid. 
Feb 24, 2011 1:28PM

I find it hard to believe any insurance will pay for such stupid behavior. Some things you don't need insurance for. This is one.

Feb 24, 2011 11:29AM
My cousin died from car surfing.  He fell off the roof going 50 mph and yes he had been drinking.  He was on life support at Parkland for a couple of days before the doctor told us the brain damage was too severe and there was no chance of recovery.
Feb 24, 2011 1:54PM

I'm pretty sure that the whole act is negligent. It wouldn't be that hard for insurance companies not to pay any claim at all rising out of this. Everybody involved is negligent. The driver is for allowing it to happen in the first place, and the surfer for choosing to participate in a reckless activity. I would hope a lawsuit wouldn't hold up in court, as if a car surfer is injured, it was both their faults.

Feb 24, 2011 1:33PM
While I appreciate this article talking about the financial effects of this idiocy, you can't talk dollars and sense to people who have no sense.  there is going to be a kid who gets hurt or killed and his parents are going to sue the parents of the kid who was driving (even though it isn't their responsibility and even though both of the kids are legitimately stupid) and that is how the money will come into effect. 
Feb 24, 2011 4:17PM
I've have known 2 kids that have died doing this.  Let's face it....at that age we all thought we were made of steel and bullet proof.  Only years and wisdom will help.
Feb 24, 2011 10:31AM

We used to ride a car hood pulled behind a pickup. Called it pasture surfing. Seemed like a good idea at the time but then K. Warren got his back broke and that as they say was that.

Feb 24, 2011 2:51PM
First, this is just thinning the herd, cleaning the gene pool etc. So ok. Next, no kid doing this should be awarded anything but time in jail.
Feb 24, 2011 2:48PM

Knew of a group that did this.  One of the guys was a good looking, smart child.  He ended up living, but with a TBI.  He was lucky, but as cruel communities can be, he became the butt of jokes.  The jokes were incredibly cruel, along with him trying to get dates with girls and having sexual harrassment lose his job and others making prank phone calls pretending they were him.  That's just what I heard.  Sure there was more....


Not too many people feel sorry for car surfers once they fall off and kill or injure themselves. 

Feb 24, 2011 3:10PM

No amount of money can bring back a surfer if dead or even the brain/spine/limb if injured, and I can't even believe that insurance companies would offer this when they don't offer anti-theft if the car doors are unlocked. 


This is a calculated risk.

Feb 24, 2011 10:46AM
Sorry last comment was for the Road Rage Video!!

As for the car "surfers"...let them do it! if your ignorant to think your cool doing it, then your SUPER COOL!! an we'll see your dumba$$es in a wheel chair or the morgue!! All your doing is helping the over population problem the world has!! DEATH TO THE IDIOTS!!!!(an the rest of humanity since we are the worst species on this planet!!)

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