If your teen is in a car accident, are you liable? Most parents are happy to see their child transition into an adult. Getting a license and driving is a teen's first taste of freedom, but as the parent, you're still responsible for your child.
Motor vehicle accidents claim six teenage lives per day – higher than any other age group.
Critical driving errors and distracted driving are often the lead cause of accidents among 16 to 19-year-old drivers.
Liability as a Parent in a Car Accident
If you have teens and they don't have cars of their own, you may lend them your vehicle. You're trying to be the good parent by allowing your children to have some form of freedom. But what happens if they get into a car accident?
Well, you may be held liable, too.
Liability, when you loan a car to someone else, may follow the vehicle, depending on the state that you reside in. New York traffic law has the liability "follow the car," so in the state of New York, you may be held liable for the accident even if you weren't in the vehicle.
"Auto accidents often happen quickly without warning. They can have devastating consequences on your physical, emotional and financial health. In addition to painful injuries, you can encounter large medical bills, lost wages and emotional distress that takes a toll on your normal activities and daily life," states disability attorney Rick L. Moore
Someone is responsible for these bills, and it may be you.
Vicarious Liability of Parents and Guardians
A majority of states have vicarious liability laws. What these laws do is put the responsibility on the parent or guardian for a minor driver. Your state may or may not have these laws in place. California, for example, requires a parent's signature on the minor's driver's license.
When you sign the license, you're essentially agreeing to be jointly liable in the case of an accident.
You're essentially a co-signer.
In the event that the parent doesn't have contact with the child or custody when the accident occurs, they can't be held liable for an accident that they caused. If your child decides to move out on their own and gets into an accident, you can't be held liable because you were not in a position to supervise the child.
How to Protect Yourself From Liability When You Have a Teen Driver
If you don't want to be held liable for your teen driver's actions, you'll want to ensure that your teen obtains their own auto insurance. Oftentimes, parents add teens to their own policy to help them save money.
But while you'll save money, you may also be holding yourself liable for any accidents that may occur.
Experts also recommend that you:
Explain the risks of drinking and driving
Ask your teen to not use their cellphone when driving
Explain the importance of safe operating procedures to your teen
Defensive driving classes are also available, which will help make your teen more aware of his or her surroundings.