Parental Responsibility for Teen Drivers in Car Accidents

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Parental Responsibility for Teen Drivers in Car Accidents

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For some parents, the thought of their teenagers driving can be scary. Teen drivers can sometimes engage in behavior that is likely to cause accidents, either by being negligent or through a lack of experience. In some ways, parents do have a reason to be concerned. In addition to any injuries their child may suffer, parents may also be on the hook for any injuries or property damage sustained in a car accident negligently or willfully caused by their children.

Under Georgia law, a parent may be held responsible for a child’s actions under several legal theories. Initially, it is important to note that a parent is not simply liable based on the parent-child relationship without more. However, a parent can be found liable for a child’s conduct if the parent provides the means by which the child causes injury to others.

In the case of a car accident, the parent can be held liable if he or she negligently entrusted a car to the child without taking care to ensure the child would operate the car safely. A parent may be liable if a person is injured after the parent, knowing the child cannot drive, or is a bad driver, allows the child to drive a car. The parent may not be found liable if the parent was not aware the child was driving, and was not involved in providing the car to the child.

Parents may also be held liable for accidents caused by a child under the family use or family purpose doctrine. Under this theory, the parent is responsible for the negligent actions of a child if the child causes an accident while the child was using the car for a family purpose. In order for the parent to be found liable, the parent who owns the car has to maintain the car for the use and convenience of the family.

There are several elements that a plaintiff has to prove in order for a court to find a parent liable under the family purpose doctrine. The elements are:

  • The parent who owns the car must have given permission to the child to drive the car;
  • The car’s owner must have given control of the car to the child;
  • The child must be in the car at the time of the accident; and,
  • The child must have been using the car to engage in a family purpose.

If the person relying on the family purpose doctrine to file a lawsuit cannot prove any of these elements, the parent will not be found liable.

It is possible for a court to find one but not both parents liable for an accident caused by a child. If only one parent was involved in spending money to purchase and maintain the car, a court may find that only that parent liable without finding the child’s other parent or the liable parent’s spouse equally liable.

Contact Us for More Information

For information on how you can receive compensation from the parent of a driver who is a minor at the time of a car accident in Atlanta, Georgia, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. today.

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