Was Your Teen Hurt in a Car Crash?
Teen drivers cause a disproportionate amount of car accidents due to inexperience, lack of risk appreciation, and more. Teen drivers can cause serious injuries to motorists in other vehicles, however, they can also cause serious injuries to passengers in their own vehicles. When teens are driving their friends around, the risk of accidents and injuries may be heightened due to distractions, loud music, and other factors. What happens when you find out that your teen was injured while their friend was driving?
Parental Responsibility for Teen Drivers
Accident victims have the right to hold negligent drivers liable for all of their medical bills and other losses. However, teenagers are often reliant on their parents and, therefore, you may assume that parents will be held responsible for their child’s negligence. In Georgia, however, it is not always that simple.
- Insurance coverage – Often, a teen driver will be covered by his or her parent’s insurance policy. In this situation, you can make a claim against the parent’s policy to seek compensation for the costs of your child’s injuries.
- Vicarious liability – In some states, parents may be held automatically liable for the actions of their children. This is not the case in Georgia, however. Parents can be vicariously liable for the negligence of a teen driver if they are in the car supervising the teen’s actions or have signed a driving agreement with their child. If the parents had no knowledge of the teen’s actions, however, or a way to stop them, they often cannot automatically be held responsible just because of their parent-child relationship.
- Negligent entrustment – If the child is using a car owned by the parents and the parents had reason to believe the teen was not competent to drive the vehicle, the parents may be held liable under the legal theory of negligent entrustment. For example, if a parent knew that a teen was not comfortable or experienced driving at night and lent them the car at night, the parents may be found liable for negligent entrustment. This also may be true if a teen already had a pattern of reckless or drunk driving.
- Family purpose doctrine – Georgia also has a “family purpose” doctrine that can hold parents liable for accidents that occurred in a vehicle owned for the convenience or enjoyment of the family – including the teen driver. In this situation, you may not have to prove that the parent negligently gave permission to use the vehicle.
Knowing when you can hold parents liable for a teen driver’s actions is critical because the costs of your child’s injuries can be extensive. The law regarding parental liability in Georgia is complicated, however, so you should always discuss your best options with an experienced Atlanta personal injury law firm.