Learning to drive is a rite of passage for young people. By the same token, worrying while their teens venture out on their own is a rite of passage for every parent. A less joyful, but arguably as memorable, moment in every young driver’s life is their first car accident. Car accidents involving teen drivers can bring up a lot of questions, the most common for parents (after “Are you okay?”) being: Am I liable for this? Read on to learn more about if and when parents are liable for their children's accidents.
When Does Parental Liability Apply in a Car Accident?
A parent’s liability for a teen’s actions behind the wheel is not automatic. In most cases, it is assumed that a driver has a responsibility to drive in a safe manner. If they fail that responsibility and cause a car accident, the fault is theirs, and the damages are theirs to pay. This applies to everyone, no matter how much driving experience they possess.
Parental liability becomes an issue only in certain situations. Examples include: when the parent is the titled owner, when a parent has failed to supervise a child and someone was harmed because of it, when a parent is negligent by providing access to a vehicle to a minor who should not have it, or when the car accident happened during an activity one can define as “family use.”
Failure to Supervise, Negligence, and Family Use in a Car Accident
Failure to supervise may be declared in certain cases where a parent did not watch their child closely enough (or was negligent), and the child caused harm. Consider a situation where a parent leaves their keys in the ignition of a vehicle. If their seven-year-old child then crashes the car into the neighbor’s vehicle, the parent could be found liable for the car accident damages because of failure to supervise - especially if the child had tried to drive the car in the past.
Negligence refers to a parent providing a vehicle to a child they know is unsafe behind the wheel. One example of this is a teenager who has a suspended driver’s license or a known history of street racing and reckless driving. If that teenager causes a car accident, the injured party could call on parental negligence as a cause, because the parents allowed their unsafe teenager access to the car.
Family use calls back to the most common of situations with teenage drivers. A parent asks their teen driver to run to the grocery store for milk. The teenager misjudges a turn and causes a car accident. In this situation, the child was driving the vehicle at the behest of the parent, and thus, the parent is liable for the teen being on the road at all.
It can be difficult to assess the true liability of a car accident with a teenager alone. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the situation.
Call Steven A. Bagen & Associates for Help with Your Parental Liability Case
Whether your teenager caused a car accident, or you were the victim in an accident involving a teen driver, you will need help to work through the complicated legal process that follows. Steven A. Bagen & Associates has experience you can trust. Contact us today!