Parents’ Liability in Accidents Involving a Minor Driver
The risk of car accidents is higher for teenagers than any other age group. In 2017, 3,255 teen drivers were involved in fatal car accidents in the United States. In 2013 only, 371,645 people were injured and 2,927 died as a consequence of car accidents involving a teen driver. This includes drivers, passengers, and pedestrians as well as occupants of another vehicle.
This higher rate of risk is attributed to several factors. Statistics show that the main reasons for this higher rate of risk are inexperience, speeding, drinking and driving, and distractions such as the use of cell phones. In Florida, a teenager is able to obtain a driving permit at 15 and a license at 16 years old, with his or her parents’ consent.
When involved in a car accident, the injured party would usually bring a negligence claim against the driver of the car that caused the injury. When the driver has not reached the majority (18 years old in Florida), who will be liable to respond for the damage caused?
Historically, common law provided parents did not have any liability on damages caused by the misconduct of their children. This was presumably based on the principle that a child is a separate person who acts independently and that a parent should not bear the liability of the children’s actions. Under this principle, the child should be personally liable for their actions and could be sued. However, since a minor usually does not have any assets, a plaintiff who received a favorable judgment would not be able to enforce it against a minor.
Parental Responsibility Laws
Most states have enacted parental responsibility laws. These statutes impose on parents or guardians’ liability for injuries caused by their minor children’s intentional acts. This liability covers damages to property, as well as personal injuries and can also make the parents responsible for their children’s civil and criminal liability.
The Florida Statutes include an express provision that creates parents liability for car accidents in which their minor child was the driver and caused damage or injuries. This means that the parent is jointly responsible for all damages caused by the minor due to negligence or willful behavior while driving a motor vehicle.
This ‘imputed’ liability is based on the fact that for a minor to obtain a drivers license, a parent must sign their application and provide a copy of the child’s birth certificate along with additional documentation (US passport, green card, employment authorization card, or proof of nonimmigrant classification.
If you have been injured in a car accident where the driver is a minor or have any question on this subject, please reach out to the skilled Ocala car accident attorneys at the Glover Law Firm for help.