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Can Parents be Held Liable for a Car Accident Caused by Their Teenage Child?

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Under Kentucky law, parents may be held jointly and severally liable for damage caused by a teenage motorist’s negligence when they sign the documents for their driver’s license application or when they provide them with an automobile to operate.

Kentucky courts recognize “the family purpose doctrine,” which allows parents to be held accountable for their children’s wrecks when the parents provide a motor vehicle to drive. The minimum requirement for a parent to be held liable is that the car was being used within the scope of the “family purpose,” which typically refers to the use and benefit of the family, encompassing ordinary uses of a family vehicle.

A parent would not be responsible for a teenage child’s recklessness if the vehicle is used for some purpose besides the family purpose, such as to commit an offense or engage in insurance fraud. On the whole, though, all ordinary uses of the motor vehicle fall under the family purpose doctrine.

In order for liability to apply, the teenage motorist must be a member of the family, and the parent must have had a legal obligation to support the child. On top of that, the parent must own and maintain the vehicle.

Family purpose liability intends to make sure that auto accident victims are able to target a solvent party to cover damages in crashes caused by teenage motorists. While insurance is a vital resource after a vehicle crash, it isn’t always sufficient to cover severe injuries and damages.

Those who have suffered injuries from a teen driver in a car collision should work with a knowledgeable auto accident lawyer to receive counsel in developing a strong personal injury claim.

Parental Liability for a Minor’s Reckless Behind the Wheel in Kentucky

Kentucky law requires a parent or guardian to sign the driver’s license or permit application for a teenager. Kentucky Rev. Stat. section 186.590 warrants that the individual who signs the application be jointly responsible, along with the teen, for any damages the minor negligently causes when behind the wheel, ranging from a fender bender to a serious auto collision.

However, the parent or guardian might be absolved of liability if the minor, or another acting on behalf of the minor, deposits proof of financial responsibility, for instance, a bond or insurance. Bear in mind that under this law, any auto owner (not merely a parent) who allows a minor to operate their vehicle could be held accountable if the minor causes bodily harm or property damage due to careless driving.

Kentucky Parents May be Held Responsible Under Common Law

Parents in Kentucky may be held financially liable for the actions of their children under common law in certain circumstances. Common law refers to a series of traditional, non-statutory legal rules, which may indicate liability.

A common law treatise, known as the “The Restatement (Second) of Torts,” states that: “A parent is under a duty to exercise reasonable care so as to control his minor child as to prevent it from intentionally harming others or from so conducting itself as to create an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to them if the parent (a) knows or has reason to know that he has the ability to control his child, and (b) knows of or should know of the necessity and opportunity of exercising such control.”

Summarily, when parents are aware that their offspring have a tendency to act in a reckless or careless manner, they may be expected to take reasonable measures to prevent that child from causing foreseeable damage to others.

For instance, a parent knows their child is inattentive behind the wheel and texts or talks constantly on the cell phone while driving. The child has, in fact, received two traffic citations for “distracted driving” in less than one year.

Now, even after having this knowledge, the parent allows the minor to drive a car without attempting to limit the child’s mobile use. While challenging to prove, if the child ends up causing a vehicle accident while speaking or texting on the phone, the parents could be deemed negligent and partially responsible for the consequent injuries and other damages.

All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Accidents

Auto accident injuries caused by underage children include ATV crashes. Over one out of every four ATV accident injuries and deaths involves riders below the age of sixteen years. You are entitled to seek damages from the parents of a child who injured your child in an ATV accident. In many instances, the parents’ homeowner’s insurance plan has applicable liability coverage, or at times, the parents may have a separate liability plan for ATVs.

Consult Our Experienced Auto Accident Attorneys Today

If you have sustained serious injuries in a vehicle collision caused by a teen driver, our personal injury lawyers at John H. Ruby & Associates will fight hard to ensure that you collect full and fair compensation.

Our knowledgeable teenage vehicle accident lawyers can help you in various ways, such as:

  • Identifying applicable insurance plans, for instance, if a teenager has divorced parents, the liability coverage of both parents may apply.
  • Proving direct responsibility of parents by unraveling crucial information that you cannot uncover on your own, such as cell phone records or driving history.

We offer a no-obligation initial consultation and represent injured clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that we only get paid if we recover compensation on your behalf. To speak with an experienced car accident attorney, call today at (502) 895-2626.