So your teen has obtained the driver’s license. Having a teen driver who is all set to hit the roads is exciting and stressful at once. It is going to be a tightrope situation for you where you will have to juggle the roles of a supportive parent and a strict disciplinarian. Do not forgo control thinking it may affect your child’s confidence level. Your lenience would not only jeopardize the youngster’s safety but may also land you in a legal soup. How? Parents are held civilly liable for the damages resulting from a car accident caused by a teen driver below the age of 18. If you ever face such a situation, seek legal help right away. As laws associated with car accidents vary from state to state, it is best to hire an attorney of that particular state where the incident happened. For example, if your teenager met with a car accident in San Diego, approach a San Diego auto accident attorney to take you through the process.
State Laws That Can Hold Parents Liable for Accidents by Minor Teen Drivers
There are some legal doctrines that can be used to hold parents responsible for the reckless driving of a teen driver. Some of these theories include:
• Statutory liability
• Negligent entrustment of a vehicle to a child
• Negligent oversight over the child
• The ‘Family Purpose’ doctrine
Every state has some or the other version of the Statutory Liability law that, in general, holds parents legally responsible for certain types of misconducts of their child, which may include assault, vandalism, shoplifting etc. The same rule applies to negligent driving by a young driver. However, the laws governing this principle may vary from state to state.
In some states, the law stipulates that if a teenager under the age of 18 operates a motor vehicle negligently, both parents or any parent having the custody of the child, or the parent who signed the application of the child’s driving license as a co-signer or sponsor can be held responsible for the negligence. In case the child does not live with both the parents, the liability for the negligence will be transferred to the parent who signed the application of the child’s driving license.
Negligent Entrustment and Negligence Oversight
Negligent oversight and negligent entrustment doctrines take into account the fact whether parents were negligent themselves. The erring teenager’s parents will be subjected to gross penalties if it is proved in the court that the motor accident has taken place due to their negligence.
While Negligent Entrustment means that parents were negligent in deciding to allow their child to drive their car, Negligent Oversight over a child means parents were not keeping proper watch over their child. A case of negligent entrustment may occur when parents give permission to their child to drive the car, knowing that he/she is not in a proper condition to drive. On the other hand, a case of negligent oversight will arise when, even after restricting the child from driving the car, the child steals the keys to drive the car and causes an accident.
The ‘Family Purpose’ Doctrine
This is a different legal concept that merges the negligent oversight and negligent entrustment doctrines. While the language of the rule may vary from state to state, in general, it states that the owner of the vehicle will be held responsible for any damage caused by a family member (or child) driving the vehicle. This rule does not depend on whether parents gave permission to the child to drive the vehicle or not.
To understand these laws more clearly, you can contact an auto accident attorney based in San Diego or the state where the incident has taken place. Also, keep talking to them about car accidents and associated danger and consequences. It is not only a matter of avoiding legal hassles; you must make your kids road-ready by teaching them how to drive safely. After all, as an informed parent, it is your responsibility to see that your kids do not misuse their newly acquired independence.