Teen Driver in Car Accident

Are Parents Liable for an Accident Caused by Their Teen?

Diehl & Hubbell, LLC Dec. 21, 2023

We understand how nerve-wracking it can be when your teenager starts driving. There's the fear for their safety, the worry about their inexperience, and the concern about potential accidents. It's a lot to handle. The thought of being held liable for an accident caused by your teen adds another layer of stress. We're here to help you navigate these concerns, providing clear information to ease your worries. 

Diehl & Hubbell, LLC is your trusted partner in such situations. Serving clients throughout Southwestern Ohio, including Warren County, Clinton County, Highland County, Clermont County, and Butler County, we've built a reputation for delivering solid legal assistance. We're more than just a law firm; we're a team committed to supporting you through challenging times. If you're facing uncertainties about your liability as a parent for an accident caused by your teenager, don't hesitate to reach out. We're here to guide you every step of the way. 

Liability for Accidents in Ohio 

In Ohio, we operate under a fault system for car accidents. What this means is that the person responsible for causing the accident is also responsible for any resulting damages. When an accident is caused by a teenager, there are several key issues to consider. 

The concept of negligent entrustment could come into play. If we, as parents, knowingly allow our teenagers to use a vehicle, despite being aware of their inexperience or irresponsibility, we might be held accountable for any accidents they cause. 

Additionally, we could find ourselves liable if we signed a liability agreement or co-signed our teenager's driver's license. In doing so, we may have unknowingly assumed responsibility for any accidents our teenager causes. 

Lastly, in some circumstances, vicarious liability might apply. If our teenager was driving a family-owned vehicle or one provided by us, we could be held liable for their actions. 

Will Insurance Cover the Expenses? 

Insurance coverage for accidents caused by teenagers can differ greatly depending on the specifics of the policy. It's crucial that we scrutinize our insurance policies to fully comprehend what is covered and what isn't. 

In some instances, our insurance policy may cover accidents caused by our teenagers. However, there could be limitations or exclusions. Therefore, it's vital to consult with our insurance provider to ensure we fully understand our coverage. 

When Is a Parent Liable? 

When it comes to determining parental liability for a child's actions in a car accident, there are a few key factors to consider:  

  • Entrustment. Firstly, if the parent has knowingly entrusted their vehicle to a minor who has a history of reckless behavior or inadequate driving skills, they may indeed be held liable. This concept falls under negligent entrustment.  

  • Control and Ownership. On the other hand, if a teenager has obtained their driving license and is using their own vehicle, then the parent may not be held liable. The reasoning behind this is that the parent neither owns the vehicle nor has control over it.  

  • Emancipated Minor. Another scenario where parents could find themselves not liable is if the teenager is an emancipated minor. Emancipated minors are legally considered adults and thus, parents are not held responsible for their actions. 

However, it is crucial to remember that laws vary from state to state, and the specifics of the accident and the family situation play a critical role in determining liability. Always consult with a legal expert to understand your position fully. 

Liability for Teenagers Driving Under Influence 

When a teenager drives under the influence of alcohol, the situation becomes considerably more serious. Underage drinking is illegal in all 50 states, and the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers under 21 is much lower than that for adults. If your teenager is caught driving drunk, it will likely result in severe legal consequences for them, including loss of their driving privileges, fines, or potentially even jail time. 

In terms of liability, if your teenager causes an accident while driving under the influence, it can have serious repercussions. As parents, if we provided the vehicle knowing the teenager might drive drunk, or if we failed to intervene when we could have, we might be held accountable for their actions under the principle of negligent entrustment. This is especially true if the teenager is driving a family vehicle.  

Furthermore, insurance coverage for accidents caused by drunk driving is more complicated. Many insurance policies will not cover damages caused by intentional illegal actions, including drunk driving. As a result, parents could potentially find themselves financially responsible for any damages caused by their teenager's drunk driving accident.  

Can a Parent Be Sued in a Personal Injury Lawsuit? 

In general terms, yes, we as parents can be sued in a personal injury lawsuit if our teenager causes an accident resulting in injuries or damages. However, the injured party would need to demonstrate that we were negligent in some way. 

To establish negligence, the injured party would need to prove that we had a duty of care towards others on the road, that we breached that duty, and that our breach of duty directly led to the accident and subsequent injuries or damages. 

Understanding Parental Liability in Teenage Car Accidents

At Diehl & Hubbell, LLC, we fully comprehend the intricacies of accidents involving teenagers and the potential liability parents may face. Our vast experience in personal injury cases positions us perfectly to provide you with the guidance and representation you need. 

If you are grappling with concerns or questions about your liability as a parent for an accident caused by your teenager, we encourage you to get in touch with us. We're here to help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights. Call us today and let's ensure your peace of mind together.