While the specifics vary from state to state, in general, parents can be held liable for car accidents caused by their children. The laws in New Jersey are slightly more lenient than the laws in New York.
Teenage Drivers are More Accident-Prone
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of car accidents for drivers in the 16-19 age group is the highest. Additionally, per mile driven, these drivers are also close to three times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision. With these alarming statistics in mind, many parents have contacted our attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. to learn more about their potential liability for these crashes.
Why are Teenagers More Accident-Prone?
Some common causes include:
- Inexperienced and less mature drivers are more likely to disregard or underestimate dangerous traffic, road, or weather conditions
- They tend to drive at higher speeds
- They engage in unsafe lane changes, improper passing, tailgating, and other aggressive driving maneuvers
- Distracted driving, which may include texting while driving, eating while driving, or distractions caused by passengers
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
What Are the Laws in New York?
In New York, Vehicle and Traffic Law 388 specifies that “[e]very owner of a vehicle used or operated in this state shall be liable and responsible for death or injuries to person or property resulting from negligence in the use or operation of such vehicle…by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of such owner.” This is what is often referred to as vicarious liability. In other words, the owner of a car is liable for any injuries in an accident– whether or not they were driving or even present at the time.
Therefore, if you loan your car to your teenaged child and they are involved in a crash, the liability follows the car. As the parent, you will bear any financial responsibility related to the damages stemming from that accident caused by their negligence.
Parents are even more likely to be held liable in cases if they were aware of their child’s questionable or dangerous behavior. This might include substance abuse, a track record of reckless behavior, or a history of traffic violations. This is what is often referred to as negligent entrustment. The parent either knew or reasonably should have known that it was not safe to hand the keys to them but did so anyway—and that carelessness ultimately led to someone else’s injuries.
New Jersey is a Little More Lenient
For parents in New Jersey, the law is a little more lenient. They can still be held vicariously liable for car accidents caused by their children, but only if the child was acting as the parent’s agent. For example, you hand your child the car keys and ask them to run an errand on your behalf. In that case, your child would be acting as your agent– and you would be vicariously liable in a car accident lawsuit. However, if you bought a car for them to drive to school, and they were not driving it for a “family purpose” at the time they caused an accident– you would not be held liable.
An Experienced Attorney Can Answer All of Your Questions
It can be complex in both New York and New Jersey when determining whether or not parents will be held liable for car accidents caused by their children. For that reason, our attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. advise that you consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to fully understand your rights, duties, and obligations under your state’s law. Since 1975, we have aggressively pursued justice on behalf of our clients in New York and New Jersey.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you have questions about parental liability for car accidents caused by your children, call Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. today to schedule a free case review. We do not charge our clients anything unless they win.