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If My Teen Causes An Accident, Am I Liable?

Monday, February 8, 2021 3:12 PM

  • For most teens, getting their driver’s license and keys to a car is a rite of passage, bringing them a newfound feeling of freedom and independence. But getting behind the wheel also comes with great responsibility and a level of risk.Due to their inexperience, teen drivers are among the riskiest drivers on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be involved in car accidents than drivers 20 and older.

    However, a teen driver is not the only one assuming responsibility behind the wheel; their parents or guardians can also be liable should an accident occur.

    Under Florida law, a parent or guardian can be held legally responsible for the negligent actions of their teen driver. If the child is under age 18, Florida law requires that a parent or guardian sign the driver’s license. This law holds the parent or guardian signing the license liable for their teen’s liability if responsible for causing a car accident..

    If a teen driver causes an accident, you would assume that the teen might be held liable – which is true. However, parents and guardians of teen drivers can also be held liable for damages and injuries that occurred. Under Florida law, there are two circumstances where the parents or guardians can be held responsible for a teen’s accident:

    • Negligent Entrustment: Under negligent entrustment theory, a parent or guardian can be held liable if their teen causes an injury accident – especially if a parent knows their teen driver is a danger to other drivers. For example, a newly-licensed teen driver has been cited for multiple reckless driving charges and can potentially lose their license, but their parents still allow them to drive despite their driving record. If the teen causes an accident, the parents could be held liable.
    • Vicarious Liability: Vicarious liability, also referred to as what is known as the “family purpose doctrine,” can play a role in liability. Parents can be held responsible for injuries and damages caused by their teen driver if they were pursuing a family “purpose” such as running to the grocery store for milk or picking up their younger sibling from school.

    Keep in mind that parental liability may not end when a teen reaches the age of 18. Florida law also recognizes the “dangerous instrumentality doctrine,” which means the owner of a vehicle is liable for its negligent operation. If a college student uses a car titled in the parent’s name at school, the parent can be liable for an accident caused by an adult child.

    Accidents happen, and when they do, you and your family will have questions about your rights and the impact on your life. The attorneys at Doran, Beam & Farrell understand your concerns and are ready to answer any question or address concerns that you may have about your claim. To schedule a FREE consultation, call us at (727) 846-1000 or complete our online contact form.