The Attorneys You Want On Your Side

Are Parents Personally Liable if Their Teenager Gets in an Accident?

On Behalf of | Dec 17, 2018 | Auto Accidents, Family Law |

Parenting is challenging. Parenting a teen is even more challenging. And if your child is 17 years of age or more in the state of New Jersey, they may already have their drivers’ license. This new privilege brings with it a whole host of concerns regarding responsibility and safety. So what happens if your child does take the keys to the car and gets into a car accident.

Parental responsibility

All drivers have a duty to drive in a reasonably safe manner, even teenagers with limited driving experience. If the driver fails to drive in a reasonably safe way, and someone else is injured as a result, then the negligent driver can be held liable for the damages, such as medical expenses, vehicular damage, and lost wages. In some circumstances, the parents of the teenager may also be liable for the damages resulting from their child’s accident. The key element is whether or not the parents entrusted the vehicle to the teenager.

Negligent entrustment

If the parents were aware or should have been aware that their teenage driver was a danger to others on the road, the parents can be liable if the teen causes a car accident. For instance, if parents know that their young driver has little experience driving on the highway and has had previous accidents, and they give him permission to use the family car for a road trip that involves highway driving, then if that child causes a car accident, the parents may be held liable for damages.

Vicarious liability or family doctrine

Under vicarious liability, the parents can be held liable for their teenage driver’s accident if the parents entrusted the vehicle to the teenager for some purpose or use. For example, if the teenager gets into an accident while running an errand for the parent, the parent could be liable. And if the teen goes to friend’s house instead of running the errand, the parent can still be liable because the parent gave the authority to use the vehicle.

“No-fault” insurance

Under New Jersey’s “no-fault” system for car insurance, all cars registered in New Jersey must have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. This PIP insurance pays the medical expenses for anyone else covered under your car insurance policy should they become injured in an accident, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. So if parents properly add their teenage child to their car insurance policy, then the policy will pay damages according to their insurance coverage. If, however, the teenage driver’s wrongdoing is criminal, the insurance policy will not cover any claim.

If your teenager had a car accident, give us a call

When your new teenage driver has a car accident, the question of who will pay for any damages is likely the last thing on your mind. Once the dust has settled after the accident, a mounting pile of insurance paperwork and medical bills awaits. Let us help. The skilled legal team at Lomurro Munson LLC has served New Jersey families with compassion and dedication for more than 130 years combined. Contact our office today at 732-482-9285 or online to arrange for a confidential consultation to discuss your situation.