Are Parents Liable for Teenage Driver Accidents? | Teenage Driver Safety Tips
Are Parents Liable For Teenage Driver Accidents? As the parent of a teenager, you are joyful at watching them grow into young adults. Their newfound independence gives you a sense of amazement and anxiety. This stage of their life comes with many things, including a driver’s license and hopes that they are not involved in car accidents. Ideally, you want to make sure your teenage driver is prepared before giving them the car keys.
Here are a few things to consider as you both embark on this rite of passage:
- Inexperience with recognizing potentially dangerous situations is a common cause of car accidents among drivers who are 16 to 19 years old, according to the CDC.
- Teenage drivers in this age group have a nearly three times higher fatal crash rate than drivers 20 years old and older.
- Your auto insurance policy will cover most injuries and losses that result from a car accident involving your teenage driver.
Are Parents Liable for Teenage Driver Accidents in Texas?
The state of Texas uses the negligent entrustment doctrine to determine a parent’s liability for teen driver accidents. This legal theory states that a parent or guardian can be held liable when their teenager is in an accident that they caused.
This rule holds the parent or guardian accountable if they knew or should have known the dangers their teenager posed on the road. Furthermore, failing to take reasonable steps to lessen the risk of car accidents can also lead to liability.
If the case goes to a car accident lawyer, the following elements must be proven to hold a parent or guardian accountable:
- The owner of the vehicle gave the teenager permission to use the vehicle,
- The incompetence or recklessness of the teenager’s driving ability, including driving without a license, was known or should have been known by the owner, and
- The teenager entrusted to drive the vehicle was negligent in causing the accident.
An example of this is if you know your 16-year-old has little experience driving on the highway. Your teenager also has a suspended license and a ticket for reckless driving. Yet, you allow her to borrow the family vehicle to drive to an away game for their high school football team.
On the way to the other school, your teen driver causes an accident. Based on the negligent entrustment legal theory, you will most likely be held responsible. This will include any physical or property damages that result from the car accident.
Under Texas law, the victim of harm caused by your minor teenager, who is someone under 18 years of age, can pursue a personal injury lawsuit for financial restitution. Essentially, your teenage driver’s negligence or intentional actions are enough for that person to sue you and your teenager.
Parental Liability for Property Damage
When property damage occurs from the negligence of teen driver accidents in Texas, their parents can be held legally liable. This rule applies if the teen’s negligent conduct is reasonably attributed to the parent’s negligent failure to exercise the “duty of control and reasonable discipline” of the teenager.
In addition to property damage, Texas law may also hold a parent or guardian liable if a personal injury or death occurs. The parent would have to be negligent in entrusting the family vehicle to the teenager.
This liability may also extend to emotional distress. Generally, the parent must have knowledge that their teen is unlicensed, intoxicated, or reckless.
For instance, allowing a teenager to drive at night knowing that they lack the skill to drive safely will most likely be held liable under the state’s law. However, a parent will likely not be held liable when they have reason to believe their teen is a safe driver.
Limitations to Parental Liability
Keep in mind that there are some limitations to parental liability in personal injury lawsuits. A car accident lawyer will explain that your liability applies to minors who live in the same house as you.
Liability does not extend to teenagers who live separately or have been emancipated from you. Additionally, you might have a defense to get parental liability waived or reduced under certain circumstances.
In some situations, you must show that you took reasonable steps to prevent your teenage driver from causing harm to themselves or others. This may include properly supervising your teenager or monitoring their behavior. If this is proven, you might not be held liable.
As a parent of teenagers in Texas, you are responsible for their actions. Therefore, it is imperative for you and your family that you teach right and wrong behaviors behind the wheel. Monitor their behavior and seek legal advice from car accident attorneys to understand parental liability laws to protect your teenager and yourself.
Driving Without Parental Permission
Challenging authority is part of being a teenager. However, driving the family car without permission can lead to repercussions greater than being grounded for one month.
If your teenage driver causes an accident after deciding to take the car against your will, you could argue that the car was not provided for her to use. Implied permission is not part of directly entrusting your teenager with the family car.
Teenage Driver Safety Tips for Parents
One of the first things you should do before handing over the car keys is to add your teenager to your auto insurance policy. In fact, do this once they receive their driver’s license.
There are no specific coverage requirements in the state when teenagers drive with a learner’s permit. Nevertheless, a licensed teenage driver must be covered with the minimum auto insurance requirements.
Another important safety tip for parents is to not shy away from talking about safe driving. Discussing issues that disproportionately impact their age group such as distracted driving and following too closely can help to increase their awareness when they start driving.
Finally, make sure you are familiar with the level and ability of your teenager’s driving skills. Let them know the level of attentiveness and responsibility that comes with the privilege of driving.
A driver’s license is just a document that gives your teenager legal permission to drive. Know your teenager. Give them as much information and support as possible that prepares them to drive solo in every situation.
Safe Driving Behaviors for Teenagers
Teen driver accidents result in a disproportionate number of fatal vehicle accidents. Typically, this happens because teenagers are more likely than experienced drivers to make mistakes behind the wheel.
However, there are some best practices that you can equip your teen with to avoid turning a milestone into a tragedy. Here are seven things to raise their awareness of safe driving behaviors.
1. Don’t Drive with Distractions
Cell phones are a common staple in our lives today. However, talking or texting on a cell phone are activities that should never happen while driving. Teach your teenager that even the slightest distraction can cause an accident.
Make sure that they use the “Do Not Disturb” mode on their phone before hitting the road. Any music that they want to listen to should be queued up before they start driving. To reduce the temptation, encourage your teen to put their phone out of reach until they reach their destination.
Another potentially distracting behavior is having too many people in the car. Engaging in conversations may cause them to take their eyes off the road at the worst possible time.
2. Wear a Seat Belt
Seat belts are required for drivers in Texas. However, teen injuries or deaths occur because not everyone follows this law. Talk to your teenager about the importance of buckling up. Generally, seat belts are one of the best defenses against other distracted, impaired, or aggressive drivers.
Let them know that wearing a seat belt can help prevent serious injuries or save their life during a car accident. Additionally, they can avoid getting an expensive moving violation ticket.
3. Don’t Speed
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 27% of fatal car accidents in 2019 were with a teen driver. Remind your teenager that when you give them the responsibility of driving the family car, you expect them to follow all posted speed limits.
They cannot save time if speeding leads to a crash where they or someone else suffers serious injuries. They also risk being pulled over by the police.
4. Stay Away from Drugs or Alcohol
Not using drugs or alcohol is advice you have probably given your children repeatedly. It is illegal for teenagers to consume these impairing substances on or off the road. Driving under the influence can also include taking OTC drugs or prescription medications.
Help your teenager avoid becoming another statistic by stressing the importance of avoiding these behaviors.
5. Limit Driving at Night
Texas has a Graduated Drivers License Program that does not allow 16-17 year old drivers to operate a vehicle between midnight and 5:00 a.m. Exceptions are for a medical emergency, school-related activity, or work.
If you allow your teenager to go out in the evening, hold to strict rules that they come home before it is too dark outside.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Even if they are not driving, teenagers usually need 8-10 hours of sleep to achieve optimal health. On the flip side, drowsy driving puts them at greater risk of being in a car crash. Let them know that it is okay to find a safe location to rest if they begin to feel tired while driving.
Start educating your teenager on road safety practices as they prepare to study for a license.
Also, help them create healthy driving habits so they feel better equipped to handle any challenges they might encounter on the road.
7. Stay Calm
Stress can even overwhelm a seasoned driver, not to mention a novice teenager with a provisional license. Arguing with a younger sibling or being stuck in traffic can get the better of your teen.
Encourage them to take a few deep breaths to remain calm in those situations. It can help them stay focused and hopefully avoid being in an accident. Let them know if necessary, it is better to pull over to a safe spot so they can calm down before continuing to drive.
8. Practice Driving Often
If practice makes perfect, then it cannot hurt for your teenager to practice their driving skills as often as possible. Encourage them to get behind the wheel to drive you to the grocery store or go to school. More practice helps them get more driving experience. Hopefully, this will go a long way to them becoming a safer driver.
Get Legal Help if Your Teenage Driver Causes a Car Accident
If you still need more clarity about your potential liability for teen car accidents, there are car accident attorneys in Texas who can help.
You can discuss concerns such as:
- How your auto insurance coverage applies
- Any limitations to your financial responsibility for physical injuries or other losses
- What is the best path forward after your teenager gets into a car accident
An attorney can go over the specifics of your situation and explain how Texas law may or may not affect the outcome.