As a parent, one of the many concerns you may have, is whether or not you are liable if your child is involved in a car accident. After all, you are probably the one paying for the insurance and also the one who bought the car in the first place. Moreover, we are all aware of the statistics showing that drivers age 16 to 19 have a very high risk of causing or being involved in car accidents. (https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html)
Firstly, yes, you could very well find yourself on the legal hook for injuries and other losses from any car accident caused by your child. But let’s dig a little bit deeper and explore the variety of factors which apply to cases involving minors.
Ownership of the car involved in the accident:
California’s traffic code states: “Every owner of a motor vehicle is liable and responsible for death or injury to person or property resulting from a negligent or wrongful act or omission in the operation of the motor vehicle … by any person using … the same with the permission of the owner.”
California uses the family doctrine act, which says that the vehicle’s owner will be held liable for any damages caused while a family member (i.e., the minor) is driving the vehicle, whether or not the owner gave the minor permission to use the vehicle
In most cases, this means that parents can be liable for a kid’s accident. This can be true so long as the child is a legal dependent, even if he or she is over 18 and no longer a minor. If the car is owned by the head of the household and provided for the family’s use, the owner is normally on the hook for damage if he or she knew of and consented to the child’s use of the car.
However, if a child sneaks out with the family car unbeknownst to his or her parents, the parents might claim they did not consent and therefore should not be liable for any damage.
You should get insurance for all of your vehicles and list your children as drivers on the policy if they will be using any of your vehicles. If you do so, the coverage takes care of any property damage or personal injuries in case of an accident.
Here are some tips to protect yourself from liability.
Explain your son/daughter the risks of drink and driving
Remind your child of the importance of not using a cellphone while driving
Explain the importance of defensive driving
During the first couple of week, it is advisable to go with your child so he can get familiarized with the area.
Do a complete checkup of the car -especially brakes, lights, and tires.