Is A Parent Liable For A Child’s Car Accident? | Farahi Law California

Is a Parent Liable for a Child's Car Accident

The 17-year old son of a wealthy Los Angeles entrepreneur admitted to vehicular manslaughter on April 23, 2021 for a fatal accident. He was sentenced to house arrest until June 30, 2021, and another court hearing was held. The accident happened after the teen’s father gave his son a Lamborghini Urus SUV as a birthday gift. The teen drove it over the speed limit, crashing into and killing 32-year-old Monique Munoz.

While the teen has been charged with gross negligence, the question remains whether or not his father can also be held responsible for the actions of his son or even serve jail time. Since the driver was still a minor, according to California Vehicle code 17707, there is a legal ground for the parent to be punished for the reckless actions of his son while he was behind the wheel.

However, there are still more reasons for parental legal liability to be taken into account in cases such as this. It is something you should be aware of as a parent when letting your teenage child drive.

In this case, some legal theories can be taken into account for the parents’ or legal guardians’ joint legal liability for the collision. Parental negligence does not just come from being responsible for the actions of a teen driver, but from also knowingly handing a vehicle to someone with a history of negligent behavior on the road.

Legal Concepts On Parental Negligence

Is a parent liable for a child’s car accident? To shed light on how a parent can be held as a person responsible, we must consider the following legal concepts on parental negligence:

1. Negligent Entrustment

If a parent knew or should have known that the teen driver was a danger to others or themselves on the road, and they still entrusted their teen with a vehicle, they can be held liable for putting the car in the hands of a historically negligent driver.

In our particular case study, even though the teen admitted to vehicular manslaughter, the parent can still be held responsible for the negligent entrustment of the Lamborghini to his son. This is because the teen already had two prior speeding tickets and had his provisional driver’s license suspended, according to the Los Angeles Times.

2. Vicarious Liability

This type of liability for parents surfaces when minor drivers are acting under the direction of their parents and cause an auto accident. An example would be when you lend the family vehicle to your son for him to buy some groceries, he decides to go around the neighborhood with his friends and causes an accident. In this situation, the parent can be held as the party liable for all the damages caused by their child.

Vicarious liability in a teen driver car accident is also identified in the family purpose doctrine.

3. Driving Privilege Application Norms

In the state of California, the parent must sign the driver’s license application under Vehicle Code 17707 for any driver under 18 years old. The law stipulates that “Any civil liability of a minor arising out of his driving a motor vehicle…is hereby imposed upon the person who signed and verified the application of the minor for a license,.” This means that the parents or legal guardians will be held jointly responsible for the teenage driver’s negligent driving.

Section 17708 of the vehicle code also holds parents potentially liable for the damages caused by their children when they give their teen permission, be it express or implied, for the minor to drive and end up involved in an accident of their own making.

California Law and Willful Misconduct: Is A Parent Liable For A Child’s Car Accident?

Another parental negligence norm specific to California juvenile court law is “Willful Misconduct” as an outlier for parental liability. Covered by the Civil Code Section 1714.1, it states that “any act of willful misconduct from a minor that results in injury or death of another shall be imputed to the parent or guardian.” In the case of our previous example, it was reported by witnesses that the driver of the Lamborghini was not only recklessly driving at 106 mph but could have been racing with a female friend.

Willful misconduct is described as being fully aware of one’s careless behavior. In this case, the question, “is a parent liable for a child’s car accident” was raised because the at-fault driver knowingly traveled over the speed limit and swerved in and out of traffic. As such, parental liability due to conscious dangerous behavior can be argued in court.

Got in An Accident Due to a Reckless Teen Driver? Contact Us!

If you or any of your loved ones have been in a fatal car accident involving a teenage driver, be it a minor child or an adult teen, remember that you don’t have to go through it alone. Contact our auto accident lawyers today! Farahi Law Firm, APC is committed to helping you get the proper medical treatment you need and winning you compensatory damages.

We work on a contingency fee basis. This means we collect no fees unless we win. You don’t have to pay us a cent until we win your case. Forget about taking money out of your pocket for medical expenses or property damage repairs, we can do it for you. Contact us  or call us for a free consultation at (844) 824-2955. We speak English and Spanish. 

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