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Parental Liability for Vehicle Accidents caused by your Child

A report released by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) revealed that young drivers aged 16-19 are a high risk for causing or being involved in a vehicle accident. In addition to the obvious road safety concerns, there’s a bigger worry for the parents. Did you know that you might be held responsible for your teen’s negligent driving or if he or she causes an auto accident? Consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Kent if you are handling a similar case.

Relevant theories of fault and negligence

When it comes to assessing who was or wasn’t to blame for a car crash, negligence is the most applied legal concept. According to negligence theory, a driver always has the duty of care and must drive carefully to avoid endangering the other road users.

If a specific driver failed to meet this duty of care and as a result, someone was injured, he or she will be legally responsible for all relevant damages such as lost wages, medical expenses, damage to the car, and more. All the duties imposed in accordance with the fault theory of negligence apply to every driver, and your teenager isn’t an exception.

Whether they’re less experienced than other car drivers or not, a negligent driver has the same legal duty not to endanger all other road users. In some situations, you (the negligent teen’s parent) could be on the hook for all relevant damages associated with the accident caused by your child. The specific theory for imposing such forms of liability will majorly depend on the specific circumstances of the crash and the state laws. Here are the three ways parental liability for a child’s negligent driving is applied.

1. Vicarious liability

According to this theory, the parent (principal) can be held responsible for wrongful acts of his or her teenage driver (agent) if he or she was acting in accordance with the authority and direction of the parent (principal).

Based on jurisdiction or your state, this form of liability is commonly known as ‘family purpose’ or ‘family use’ doctrine. Therefore, if your teenage son drives recklessly and ends up causing an accident, the law will hold you responsible for the damages resulting from the crash.

2. The theory of driving privilege application

In California, Florida, and a few other states, teen’s parents are required to assume their kid’s liability if the child was to blame for an auto accident. You, the parent, automatically agree to this whenever you sign your child’s application for a driver’s license.

3. Negligent entrustment theory

You can be held responsible when your teenager causes vehicle cash if you knew or should have known that the child was could cause a danger to other road users. For instance, if you already knew your petite 17-year-old wasn’t experienced enough to drive in a busy highway and you let her drive in such a highway, if she causes an accident, you can be held responsible for her wrongdoing.