Frequently Asked Questions - Are Parents Liable For Children's Car Accidents?
The typical driving age in the United States is 16. Some states allow children to get their permit at the age of 15. This means that they can legally drive; however, they must have a legally licensed driver over the age of 21 with them in the vehicle at all times. Not all states have adopted this law but Florida specifically does. The reason this is so important is that children are still learning how to operate a vehicle in a safe and prudent manner. They may have some knowledge of the laws and know how to drive but this does not mean they are experienced enough to be let loose on their own. By driving with an experienced driver, they are able to get feedback and compliments and are able to learn from their mistakes.
Additionally, in the State of Florida, anyone who resides with anyone 14 years of age or older, regardless if that person has a driver’s license or permit, must be listed on your insurance policy. If you do not disclose to your insurance company that you reside with anyone else, 14 years of age or older if you are involved in an auto accident, regardless if you are at fault or not, the insurance company can declare a “material misrepresentation” and they will more likely than not cancel your insurance policy, refund your money, and not pay a penny towards any benefits you may be entitled to. It is extremely important to disclose all household members to your insurance company when you purchase an insurance policy or when someone moves in with you. If a material misrepresentation occurs and your child is at fault for an accident, you are open to all kinds of issues. Your vehicle will not be fixed by your insurance company, you will not be entitled to any personal injury protection benefits and you can then also be sued by the person that your child injured.
If you own a vehicle that multiple people drive, especially your children, it’s always extremely important to make sure your insurance company has them listed as insured drivers on your policy. If you live with multiple people and only you drive your vehicle, you will still have to list your household members with your insurance company; however, you can choose to list your household members as excluded drivers. This could save you a little bit of money, especially if one of your household members has a not-so-good driving record. If however, one of your household members drives your vehicle and they are listed as excluded drivers and are involved in an accident, your insurance company can again decide a material misrepresentation has occurred and they will cancel your policy and not pay your benefits.
If your children drive any of your vehicles, it is extremely important to make sure you have enough coverage on your policy to cover anyone else and yourself and your child if your child is involved in an accident. If your child is driving your vehicle and they are found to be at fault for an accident, it is ultimately you who will be held accountable. You are the vehicle owner and the named insured on the insurance policy. Your child will receive a ticket and points on their license but you will ultimately be the one who suffers the most as your insurance rates will more than likely be raised as now your child has been deemed an unsafe driver. Auto accidents caused by teens and new drivers are extremely common. They have much less driving experience, tend to become distracted more often than experienced drivers and like to show off in front of their friends. As the years go by, technology has become much more suited for young drivers in order to try to cut down on teen accidents. Some car manufacturers have designed special keys that you can give to your child that you can program to only go up to a certain speed, only allow the radio volume to be so high, and not allow the vehicle to move unless all seated occupants have put on their seatbelt. These are very good tools to have but you have to always keep in mind that no matter how many safety precautions you put in place, children are still going to be involved in accidents and you will be held responsible if they are at fault.
If your child causes an auto accident and the insurance company and the injured party are unable to settle the claim amicably, a lawsuit could be filed in which you will be a party, being that you are the vehicle owner and named insured. If this happens, your insurance company will assign a defense attorney to defend you and the insurance company. You and your child could be deposed or put on the stand at trial. If your child causes an accident and you do not have the insurance coverage or enough insurance coverage to adequately compensate the injured party, you could be faced with being sued personally and having your wages garnished or your assets taken. This is why it is always so important to have as much insurance coverage as you can afford in order to protect you and your child from being sued.
If your child is over the age of 18 and driving their own vehicle that they own and end up in an accident, don’t think you are immune from any liability. If your child lives in your household, certain laws dictate that you could still be a party to a lawsuit. Any household coverage that is available could be awarded to the injured party after an accident caused by your child. Again, the best way to protect yourself and your child is to make sure you and your child, or anyone in your household for that matter are fully covered by the best insurance policy you can buy.