Parents Liability for Minors Involved in Car Accidents

The short answer is yes. However, depending on the circumstances the answer can be more complex.

Parents Liability for Minors:

Under California Law, both parents are required to verify and sign their minor child’s application for a driver’s license. In the case where only one parent has custody of the minor, then that parent must verify and sign the application. If neither parent has custody, then the legal guardian of the minor must sign the application. By verifying and signing this application the parents become legally liable for the acts of their children.

When a minor is driving with their parents’ permission, the parents become jointly and severally liable with their child. Jointly and severally liable means that each party is independently liable for the full extent of the damages. This means the parent can be held to fully financially responsible for injuries caused by their minor child’s car accident.

The key to establishing parental liability for a car accident is the permission. Parental permission can either be expressly given or impliedly given.

Expressed permission is clearly stated permission. An example of expressed permission would be if a minor went up to their parent and asked “can I borrow the car to go and see a movie?” and the parent answered “sure, have fun.” The key to expressed permission is that it is clearly and unambiguously given.

Implied permission is inferred from the actions of the person given the circumstances of the situation. Establishing implied permission is difficult as the concept is tricky. The classic example of implied permission is in the context of playing sports. For example, if you agree to play a pickup basketball game at the gym, then you are giving your implied permission for other players to make physical contact with you during the game. Basketball is a contact sport and your permission is based on the context and your actions agreeing to play. In terms of a minor driving, an example of implied permission would be if a parent were standing in the garage next to the car when their child walked by and said, “Bye mom, I am heading to the movies.” If the parent did nothing, it could be argued that they have given their implied permission to take the car to the movies. Again, this issue is often contested in lawsuits and is not always clear.

The California legislature has put caps on damages in cases where the minor gets into a car accident, meaning the parents liability cannot exceed a certain amount.

If you or your loved one has been injured in an accident involving a minor, please contact the experienced San Diego personal injury attorneys at Martinez & Schill LLP to discuss parents liability for minors involved in car accidents.  Our personal injury attorneys are experienced in determining causation in a particular car accident and may be able to offer insight into potentially culpable parties.  We don’t get paid until we recover compensation on your behalf, so call today for a free consultation.  San Diego [[phoneSan]] or Riverside [[phoneRiver]].

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