Are Parents Personally Liable if Their Teenager Gets in an Accident?
As teenagers begins driving, parents worry about their safety and their ability to make good decisions while behind the wheel. Texting and driving, speeding, and failing to appreciate dangerous road conditions are all factors that have been attributed to teenage motor vehicle accidents. In fact, teenage drivers are involved in 13 percent of all motor vehicle accidents in New Jersey, even though they only make up about 6 percent of the state’s population.
New Jersey uses a no-fault motor vehicle insurance model. According to New Jersey law, each driver’s own insurance company covers his or her medical bills, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. A specific type of coverage called personal injury protection covers medical expenses in an amount up to the policy limits that are purchased. We recommend that you purchase $250,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
In New Jersey, when you purchase car insurance you also have to select whether or not you want to have the “unlimited right to sue” or “limited right to sue” option. With an unlimited right to sue, an injured individual may sue an at-fault driver for pain and suffering for any type of injury. With the limited right to sue, only compensation for certain types of injuries may be pursued in a legal claim against the at-fault driver. These include:
- Loss of a body part
- Serious disfigurement or scarring
- Loss of a fetus
- Displaced fracture
- Permanent injuries
If a victim suffers any of these injuries, that victim (or the victim’s loved ones, in the event of a death) has the right to sue the at-fault driver. We recommend that you purchase the “unlimited right to sue” option to protect yourself and your family in the event you are injured in an accident that is due to the negligence of another driver.
Whether a teenage driver’s parents will be responsible for an accident their teenager causes depends on the facts surrounding the case.
Most insurance policies provide coverage for other licensed household members. Therefore, if your teenager was driving your car, there is a good chance that coverage is provided in the event of an accident. However, many accident victims have pursued legal claims against the parents of teenagers as well, arguing that the parents were negligent in entrusting their vehicles to the teen drivers. Make sure that you add your teenage driver to your insurance coverage.
In these claims, the court considers whether the parents should have known that it was likely that the teenager would cause an accident. Did the teenager have several traffic violations on his license? Was the teenager’s license valid? If the court believes that the teenager never should have been allowed to drive the vehicle, the teen’s parents may face liability.
Additionally, parents may face liability under the family purpose doctrine. According to this legal theory, parents may be liable for their teenager’s actions because the teen was acting as an agent of the family while using the vehicle.
Clearly, parental liability for a teenage driver is a complex issue in New Jersey. If you have been injured in an accident, you should consult an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible to ensure your legal rights are protected.
At Leonard Legal Group, our New Jersey accident attorneys understand complex liability matters
The New Jersey accident attorneys at Leonard Legal Group are experienced in all types of motor vehicle accident claims, including those against teenage drivers. To schedule a free consultation with our skilled legal team, call 973-984-1414 or contact us online.