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Who Is Liable for Damages When a Minor Causes a Car Crash?

Published on Feb 25, 2022 at 4:09 pm in Car Accidents.

View of driver from backseat

It’s a parent’s nightmare—a child takes the car (with or without permission), drives recklessly, and causes an accident that injures another person. What does a parent need to know about liability after a crash caused by a teen driver? Who is held liable for accidents caused by minors?

There is no simple answer to these questions. Accidents involving minor drivers are complicated, and the specifics of your case are best discussed with an experienced car accident lawyer who can determine which legal doctrines apply to your case. Below, we’ll discuss some different scenarios that may apply in a minor-caused car accident. To learn more about legal options following a car accident involving a minor driver, contact Golden Law Office to speak with a car accident attorney.

Auto Insurance and Teen Drivers

Teen-caused accidents are not uncommon. Drivers under 17 are involved in more motor vehicle crashes than any other age group in the United States. Parents who own a crash-involved vehicle may be left asking: What happens if my son or daughter crashes my car? Does insurance cover damages caused by minors? In many cases (and ideally), the minor driving the car will be covered by either their own insurance policy or a parent’s. Most families choose to add the teen driver’s name to an existing household policy, but in some cases it may be better to purchase a separate policy. Either way, in a best-case scenario, the insurance policy will be able cover the other driver’s damages.

Kentucky law states that vehicle owners may not operate their car, truck, or SUV in Kentucky until adequate insurance has been obtained. The vehicle must also be registered in the county in which you reside within 15 days of moving there. However, students from out of state who attend a school or university in Kentucky are exempt from the local registration and insurance laws. A student attending a Kentucky-based educational institute can use the insurance and registration of their home state, as long as they carry a current student ID card from their school every time they drive. Car accident cases can become even more complex if a driver is both a minor and an out-of-state driver. Be sure to speak with your car accident attorney if your case involves complicating factors such as these.

There are also situations in which a minor drives a car without insurance. If a teen is not covered under their parent’s insurance policy, the parent may be liable, as it is usually the registered owner of the car who is responsible for the accident. When the vehicle owner is not a parent or guardian—as would be the case if a teen driver borrows another person’s car—the owner will likely be liable for the accident caused by their car. If a minor driver gets into an accident, it’s important for the vehicle owner to report it to their insurance company as soon as possible. Regardless of how you or your vehicle were involved in the accident, beginning a conversation with your insurance company promptly after a collision is an important first (and legally required) step. If there are disputes about liability or compensation, you may need to have your car accident lawyer handle your claim so an insurance company does not act in bad faith or mishandle your claim.

Kentucky Laws for Minor-Caused Car Accidents

What laws dictate when a parent is liable for a child’s car accident? Under what conditions is a parent liable for damage caused by their child behind the wheel? One Kentucky law speaks to the problem of negligent drivers under the age of 18. When a teen driver applies for a KY driver’s license or permit, a parent or guardian must sign the application. This signature means that the person signing will be “jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages caused by the negligence.” The phrase “jointly and severally” here means that each party (both the minor and the adult signer) can be held independently liable for the injuries caused by negligent driving.

If an injured victim decides to take legal action and is awarded compensation, they can collect the full amount of compensation from either the minor or the adult. However, if the minor or someone on their behalf deposits proof of financial responsibility, the adult signer is not liable in case of an accident. The law further states that any vehicle owner who permits a minor to drive their vehicle may be liable if the teen drives negligently and causes an accident.

In order for an injured victim to take legal action against a teen driver, it must be determined that the minor, or another party, acted negligently. Parents need to know that they may be found liable for negligence, even if they weren’t involved in the accident directly. In the state of Kentucky, when a teen driver causes an accident, there are several laws under which a parent may be held responsible for the actions of their child behind the wheel. For example, Kentucky recognizes the family purpose doctrine, which states that a vehicle owner may be liable for damages caused by a family member who uses the vehicle. Under this doctrine, vehicle owners should maintain control over their vehicles in the same way they would a firearm, knowing the danger of harm it could cause. As such, owners must ensure that anyone driving the vehicle does so responsibly or not at all.

There could be multiple complicating factors in a motor vehicle crash involving a teen driver, including vehicle ownership, what type of insurance the parent holds, the presence of more than one insurance policy in the case of divorced parents, and multiple other factors. If you were involved in an accident caused by a teen driver, or own a vehicle crashed by a teen driver, it’s important to have an experienced legal representative on your side.

To have an attorney from our firm review your potential case, please fill out an online contact form with your case details. We will be able to evaluate your situation and offer advice about your legal options and how our firm may be able to help.

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