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Parental Responsibility for Accidents Caused by Minors

By Aline Miranda on February 20, 2011

Generally, parents are not responsible for torts committed by their minor child. This rule dates back to a California Supreme Court case from 1885. However, the legislature has carved out several exceptions to this general rule, including limited parental responsibility for motor vehicle accidents caused by minors.

Under current law, if a minor causes a motor vehicle accident, the parents also are responsible for up to $15,000 for injury or death to any person, up to a maximum of $30,000 per accident, and up to $5,000 for property damage. These amounts correspond to the minimum insurance coverage required by California law, but in many instances this is insufficient to fully compensate accident victims for all of their damages.

However, a parent may be responsible for the full value of your damages if the parent’s own negligence contributed to the accident. Examples of parental negligence include: negligently supervising a minor driving with a learner’s permit or negligently entrusting their vehicle to a minor the parent knew or should have known would drive negligently.

In cases where the parent has done nothing to cause or contribute to the accident, his/her responsibility is limited. However, in cases where the parent is negligent because of his/her own failure to properly supervise their minor child, the above limits do not apply.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a minor, you should immediately seek advice from a knowledgeable injury attorney to determine whether your damages will be limited or whether you can force the parent’s to take responsibility for their child’s negligence beyond these limits. Feel free to call my office anytime for a free consultation.