Drivers from all various age groups cause collisions every day, but teenagers especially cause a significant number of all crashes. Teens lack experience behind the wheel, and they often exercise poor judgment, becoming distracted or engaging in reckless behavior while driving.
Even though teenagers were the ones behind the wheel during a crash, injured victims may ask if parents can be held liable for their damages. Galloway Jefcoat’s experienced Lafayette auto accident lawyers discuss parental liability for crashes caused by teenage drivers, including your options for recovering compensation.
We have helped so many crash victims in Lafayette and elsewhere in Louisiana. Our firm has obtained hundreds of millions in compensation on behalf of our clients.
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Vicarious Liability For Damages Caused by Children
While every car crash claim is unique, it is generally true that the parents of a teenager who caused a crash are liable for the damages. This is often because it is the parents who own and insure the car.
That said, it is a good idea to review the situation with a licensed attorney. If a teenager who owns and insures a car causes a crash, then he or she is likely going to be liable in that situation.
It is important to note also that parents can be held liable for reasons that extend beyond insurance coverage. Under Louisiana Civil Code Article 2318, the parents of a minor child who lives with them are responsible for damages the child causes. The exception to this is when the minor child has been emancipated by:
- Judgment of full emancipation
- Judgment of limited emancipation that relieves parents of liability
This form of liability is known as vicarious liability. Parents are expected to provide the responsible supervision and education of their children. The idea is that parents should take reasonable steps to prevent their children from causing injuries to others. Short of that, parents should educate their children to make it less likely they will engage in negligent behavior that causes injuries to other people.
Another legal concept that may come up in crash cases involving teenage drivers is negligent entrustment. Under this theory, people expose themselves to liability when they allow an incompetent person to drive their vehicle.
For example, parents could be liable for letting their teenager drive when he or she had a long history of traffic infractions or reckless driving. They may also be liable if they let their child drive if he or she has a known substance abuse problem.
Negligent entrustment may also apply if the teenager was unlicensed. In Louisiana, it is illegal to cause or knowingly allow a minor child to drive a car without a license. If the parents let the child drive without a license, they are likely to be held liable for damages.
Parents may try to counter this by arguing they did not have the ability to control their child’s behavior or that the child did not live with them at the time of the accident. These may be solid arguments, depending on the evidence presented.
The parents’ insurance policy may not apply because it may contain a clause that voids coverage if the driver did not have a license. Unfortunately, in this situation, the parents would still be liable, but they would not have an insurance policy to fall back on.
What if the Teenager Drove the Car Without Parental Permission?
One potential defense against vicarious liability or negligent entrustment is that the teenager drove his or her parents’ car without permission. If the parents can prove the teenager did not have permission to drive their car, it is unlikely the victim can hold the parents liable for damages.
That said, it may be difficult to prove the teenager did not have permission to drive the car. Even if they explicitly told their child not to drive the car, they may have left the keys in a place the teenager knew about or could easily access. Your lawyer might be able to argue the parents should have known the teenager might disobey them, especially since he or she had easy access to the keys. This argument may be further strengthened if the teenager had a history of engaging in illegal or reckless driving conditions.
What To Do After a Crash Caused by a Teenage Driver
You should treat this type of crash like any other:
- Move your car out of the flow of traffic – That way you reduce the risk of getting hit by a passing car.
- Call 9-1-1 – You should never assume a car crash is not a big deal. Your injuries could be worse than you think, so you should always take a collision seriously.
- Exchange information with the other driver – This includes the other driver’s name, contact details and insurance information. You can do this while waiting for the police to arrive.
- Tell the police what happened – When the police arrive, explain what happened so the officer can complete a report. This serves as official documentation of what happened.
- Go to the hospital – The most important thing to do when leaving the scene is to get medical treatment to stabilize your injuries. If you wait to seek medical attention, your injuries could get much worse and become more difficult to treat.
- Call an experienced attorney to help you seek maximum compensation – You should call a lawyer even if your crash was not caused by a teenage driver. The legal process can be complex for a variety of reasons. It is best to leave these things to an experienced lawyer. If you go it alone, there is too much of a risk of making a significant mistake and not recovering the full compensation you need.
Give Galloway Jefcoat a Call To Discuss Your Legal Options
Unsure how to recover full compensation for your car crash injuries and damages?
Galloway Jefcoat is here to help. Contact us to set up an initial legal consultation and learn more about our services. There are no upfront costs to have our firm represent you at every stage of the legal process.
We are here to help. Call us today: (337) 984-8020.