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Are Florida Parents Liable for Their Teens Car Accident?

— May 15, 2023

If you’ve told your child that they can’t drive your car, you might be able to claim that you shouldn’t be held liable for the accident that they caused.

Even though teens are a small percentage of all drivers, they represent a large share of car accidents. In fact, nearly 33% of all high school students have emailed or texted while driving a vehicle. In fact, 16-19 year olds are three times more likely to be in a fatal car crash than those over the age of 20. Whether because of inexperience or negligent operation of a vehicle, the teen driver is often the one who is at fault. If your child is considered at fault for the car accident they were involved in, you may be wondering about your liability for any damage or injuries that occurred. 

Are Parents Liable?

There are times when parents will be viewed as liable for their child’s actions when it comes to a car accident. When a child is 18 years old or younger, it’s believed that parents will supervise them. If, under this supervision, a car accident takes place, the parent could be held liable. 

There are two scenarios that create liability under Florida law. Based on the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine, the individual who owns a “dangerous instrument” will be responsible for any injuries that were caused by the instrument. A minor can’t have their name on a vehicle’s title if the vehicle is owned by their parent.

Under Florida statute 322.09(2), a parent needs to sign before their child receives a driver’s license. Because of this signature, the parent can be liable if their child is negligent while driving on a public road.

Does Insurance Provide Coverage?

An auto insurance policy is able to cover multiple drivers for a single vehicle. It’s commonplace for insurance providers to require teenage drivers to be placed on the insurance policy that their parents have taken out. If your child causes an accident while on the insurance policy, the insurer will be tasked with covering the damages. 

If, on the other hand, your child has yet to be listed on this policy, the provider will almost certainly deny coverage even if the vehicle is insured. In this scenario, the teenager driver could also get in trouble for not having the necessary insurance.

Did Your Child Steal Your Car?

Mother Doubts Teen Took Life While Handcuffed by Police Officers
Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on Unsplash

If your vehicle has been stolen, you typically won’t be held liable for any damages that occurred when an unauthorized driver was operating your vehicle. However, this isn’t necessarily the case if the driver is your teenage child. 

If you’ve told your child that they can’t drive your car, you might be able to claim that you shouldn’t be held liable for the accident that they caused. Let’s say that your teen has been grounded, which has resulted in their driver privileges being taken away temporarily. If they know that they aren’t allowed to drive but do so anyway, you might be able to claim that they were an unauthorized user of your vehicle and that you shouldn’t be liable. 

In any other situation, there’s a good chance that you’ll be liable for the damage or injuries that have resulted from the accident. Whether you told your child that they could drive your vehicle or didn’t say anything to them about driving your car, the court might decide that you have given your child “implied permission” to do so. If your child knew how to find the car keys and had easy access to them, it might prove challenging to claim that you shouldn’t be liable for their actions.

To make sure that you avoid liability for an accident that your teen causes, consider transferring the vehicle’s title once your child turns 18. Since an insurance policy is attached to a vehicle instead of a person, you’ll no longer be liable if you don’t own the vehicle at the time of the accident.

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