Are Parents Liable for Accidents Caused by Their Minor Children?
In Florida, a teenager can obtain a Learner’s or Restricted Driver’s License at the age of 15 and an unrestricted one from age 16. So, it’s probably not surprising that every once in a while, there’s a news report of a teen who took their parents’ car (often without their permission) and was subsequently involved in an accident. Sometimes, it’s just your ordinary fender bender.
At other times, the accidents are serious leading to death or grave injury. Are the parents responsible for the action of the teen driver?
The law varies from state to state. However, virtually every state in the country has some form of ‘Parental Responsibility Laws’. A general principle of law is that everyone is responsible for their own actions. Therefore, the teen can be sued for their negligence in causing a collision. Only children below 6 years cannot be held responsible for their conduct.
The ability to charge the teen is more relevant in Florida because the state allows a 15-17-year-old teen to be the registered owner of a car (in practical terms though, this is the exception since the car will need insurance or was purchased using a loan, all of which will usually require the involvement of the parent).
However, for 15 to 17-year-old drivers, there is an added dimension. In Florida, a minor is an individual aged below 18 years. The law considers a parent/child relationships special and this warrants an exemption from the principle of all liability falling on the driver if a teen is at fault. It imposes civil liability on parents for the wrongful acts of the minors in their care. Parents may be sued for negligence which implies that they did not act with reasonable care in ensuring their child would not be the cause of the accident.
In Florida, a minor’s application for a driver’s license must be signed by the parent and filed with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. That way, the parent assumes certain obligations over the child’s misconduct or negligence. As set out in the statute, the parent commits to be financially responsible for costs accrued from car accidents the child is involved in.
The form and parental consent remain in force until the minor’s 18th birthday unless it’s revoked in writing, a consent form for the same minor is signed by another parent (and the previous one revoked), or the teen gets married.
Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. A 17-year-old is involved in a highway accident that injures another person. This probably happened because the minor was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The parent who provided consent for the license application would be liable for the injury and damage experienced by the other parties to the accident.
Depending on the severity of the accident, this would include medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost income, property damage and any other expense that was the result of the accident.
Get in Touch with an experienced Boca Raton Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or one of your loved ones has been involved in an accident due to the negligence or willful misconduct of a minor driver, get in touch with Leifer Law Firm. Our team of Boca Raton personal injury attorneys have deep understanding of Florida’s parental responsibility laws. They will guide in the pursuit of damages from the minor’s parent or guardian.
Accidents involving minors are not as common as those involving adults so the number of experienced lawyers in these types of cases are not as many as those for more conventional accidents. There are many nuances in the law that only an experienced Boca Raton personal injury lawyer would be aware of. Effective representation can make the difference between whether your claim is successful or falls through. Talk to us today.
4 Things You Need to Know About a Child’s Personal Injury Case in Florida: /2016/03/24/4-things-you-need-to-know-about-a-childs-personal-injury-case-in-florida/