Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001 and has an undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in ...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2021

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Young people do crazy things. The older we get, the more foolish these things (and things we did when we were that age) appear to be.

However, the new trend of ‘car surfing’ will likely be one of those that everyone will look back on as just plain stupid and dangerous. Apparently surfing isn’t just for the beaches anymore, it can be done on the highway!

For those of us who only use cars for more traditional means, such as transportation to work, car surfing is the act of riding the hood, trunk or roof of a moving car while imitating the moves of a surfer on water. Beaches better look out – clearly the road is the best place to catch a wave.

There are even reported incidences where drivers of the vehicle attempt to get out and ‘surf’ while no one is behind the wheel. No, we are not making that up. Continue reading once you’ve finished rolling your eyes and shaking your head in disbelief.

Did you guess that this isn’t good for insurance? 

Remember, depending on the state in which you reside, the laws may dictate different outcomes to the amount and possibility of collecting damages.

For example, your particular state may find that the surfer is negligent for resulting damages and the car owner’s insurance (assuming they are not the same person) is not going to pay a dime.

In other states, the vehicle owner’s insurance may get the whole bill, while in other states the surfer and driver/owner would split the bill in various manners.

While there are almost an unlimited number of outcomes to this stunt with regard to bodily injury and property damage (none good), we’ll highlight a few of the more obvious. Number one being stick to the beaches if you’re looking to surf.

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What if the ‘surfer’ gets hurt?

The surfer, likely not your friend anymore, would be able to make a claim against the liability portion of your insurance policy or against personal injury protection (PIP).

In essence, this means the driver may be ‘at-fault’ as though they injured the surfer while he/she was simply standing on a street corner or as if they were a passenger, hurt during a collision not caused by another driver. It may be hard to wrap your mind around  the fact that a driver who had no say in what the surfer was doing ends up paying for any sort of head injuries sustained in the event the surfer gets injured. Though there may have already been some sort of head trauma if the surfer felt what they were doing was a good idea.

How about if the driver gets hurt?

Interestingly, there may be coverage for this injury under the driver’s health insurance or auto insurance. Since the driver would be ‘at-fault’ the liability portion of his/her insurance would not be triggered if a claim were filed.

The only option for the driver here, as far as auto insurance goes, would be to have purchased medical payments coverage (Med Pay) or PIP. Both are coverage an insured purchases to protect them in the event they are injured in an accident that was not someone else’s fault. Once again, it may seem unfair that a person who wasn’t taking part in any kind of surf activity would end up paying, but it does depend on where a driver lives.

What happens if something happens to the car that was used as a surf board? 

The driver’s insurance policy would respond if the car being “surfed” is damaged. Of course, if Spicoli didn’t purchase physical damage coverage for the vehicle, or more specifically, collision coverage; he’d be out of luck and would have to cover the cost of repairs.

Comprehensive coverage, also known as Other Than Collision or “Comp” would do no good here. Read more about the difference between comprehensive and collision coverage and whether or not you need it.

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Is it considered property damage if someone else’s vehicle is damaged? 

Coverage here depends on whether or not the damage was caused by the car or the fool ‘surfing’ on top of it. If it was the car, the car insurance property damage liability would cover the cost of repairs. If the surfer causes the damage, he/she would likely be found liable. Although, this may very well end up in court to determine who foots the bill. Not every driver is going to be happy that their car was used as a surf board.

So what is the final word on car surfing? 

While there were a few (admittedly lame) 80’s movie comedy references related to this topic, there really isn’t anything funny about it. Many people have gotten injured, and unfortunately there are even reports surrounding the deaths of people who have attempted this stunt. It is dangerous and not worth the risk of injury, let alone the financial ramifications.

Not only would your car insurance rates go up, but you may be hard pressed to even locate coverage if this type of liability claim shows up on various reports (CLUE, MVR). The last thing you need is to be labeled a non-standard “risk” for auto insurers or have to obtain coverage from a state-run insurance pool. It’s a whole different ballgame than the standard and preferred markets. Save the surfing for the beaches, please.

Parents are cautioned that they would likely be found negligent (at-fault) in court cases where bodily injury, including fatalities, and property damage have occurred. Not knowing what your minor is up to when they leave the house is not a plausible defense in court. Be certain to communicate this to your children – even if you think there is no possible way they would do this.

(photo: pthread1981)