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Parent’s Responsibility for a Childs Negligence in a Car Accident

Parental responsibility for a minor child’s negligence for car accidents in Florida.

Generally a parent is not responsible for his or her minor child’s negligence in causing or contributing to a car accident in Florida.  However, there are many exceptions to that general rule. Some of the exceptions are discussed in this article.

The first and most straight forward way a parent can be responsible for a car accident caused by a minor child is by signing the minor child’s drivers license. The legislature requires that if a minor wants to obtain a drivers license a parent, guardian or other responsible adult must sign the application for a drivers license. The parent signing the application will be responsible for compensatory damages caused by the minor child. It is important to note that the statute does not make the parent responsible for punitive damages. Therefore if a parent has concerns about his or her child’s ability to drive a vehicle safely they may consider refusing to sign the application.

Similarly, when a parent entrusts a dangerous instrumentality (i.e. a motor vehicle) to a minor child the parent may be responsible if the child may become a source of danger to others because of the child’s lack of age, judgment or experience. An example of a parents responsibility based on this exception is letting a twelve or thirteen year old drive a car. There are many other examples and the facts and circumstances of each individual situation must be taken into consideration.

Other exceptions include: a child acting as an servant or agent for the parent ( servant and agent status is that similar to an employee); a parent directs, consents or sanctions the wrongdoing; and where a parent fails to exercise control over the minor child although the parent knows or with due care should know that injury to another is possible.

Another important exception to the general rule is that the owner of a motor vehicle is responsible for the damage that the motor vehicle causes. Many children are not able to purchase their own cars. If a parent is able to purchase a car out right, he or she should take steps to put the title in the child’s name only. This is hard to do when a loan is taken out to pay for the vehicle as the bank will want the parent to act as guarantor.

It is important to know your liability as a parent for the acts of your children. If you need any further questions answered, please do not hesitate to call.

Zimmet & Quarles. P.L. Law Firm have the experienced Daytona Beach Auto Accident Attorneys to help you on your questions and concerns.

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