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Can Parents Be Held Liable for a Car Accident Caused by Their Teenage Child?

Learning to drive is practically a rite of passage for teenagers, but it also presents risks for those on the road around them. In some cases, negligent teenage drivers can cause serious injuries, property damage, and even death. This raises the question: who is financially responsible for the damage caused by teenage drivers?

Learn more about what state law says about this question. If you or someone you love has been injured in a crash caused by a teenage driver, call Peake & Fowler at 803-788-4370 to schedule a consultation.

Parental Responsibility in South Carolina

South Carolina is one of many states that does hold parents responsible for the damage caused by their minor child in a car accident. This gives accident survivors and surviving family members a way to recoup some of the loss experienced in a crash. Victims can recover in a civil suit if the child lives with their parents and the minor’s actions were done in an intentional or malicious manner.

In most situations, a parent’s financial responsibility for their minor’s actions only extends to a maximum of $5,000. The minor can be held liable for the rest. This is often a dead end for victims, as minors are unlikely to have the assets needed to pay for excess damage.

Damage in Excess of $5,000

While a parent’s liability typically ends after the first $5,000 in damage, there are circumstances in which their liability goes beyond that. If the parents did something that could foreseeably lead to the accident, the parents may be held liable for damages beyond the initial $5,000. Under South Carolina’s family purpose doctrine, the head of a household who owns a vehicle for the use of the family is liable for negligence on the part of a family member who has permission to use the vehicle.

Insurance Coverage

The good news is that it often doesn’t come down to whether a victim can seek $5,000 or go for more directly from the parents. In most car accidents, the vehicle owner has insurance to cover the damage caused by covered drivers. Most parents include their minor children on their policy to avoid lawsuits and personal liability for damage. If a minor driver causes an accident with damages that are below the policy limits of the parent’s insurance policy, neither the driver nor the parent will have to pay out-of-pocket for the expenses incurred. The victim can recover compensation directly from the insurance company.

When Insurance Coverage is Not Enough

In most situations, the parent’s car insurance is enough to cover the losses suffered by the accident victim. This isn’t always the case, particularly if the parent has the bare minimum allowed under state and federal law. When this happens, the law goes back to the family purpose doctrine. If damage exceeds policy limits, the minor and their parents will be held liable for any damages that are not compensated by the insurance company.

Why You Need an Attorney

As you can see, car accidents involving teenage drivers can become complicated very quickly. Parents may try to avoid bringing insurance into the equation, as they know that their teen driver’s rates are likely to skyrocket if they report an accident. However, you need to do what is best for you, not what is best for the liable driver. That’s where a personal injury attorney can help.

Your attorney can investigate the crash, learn more about the other driver’s actions leading up to the crash, and create a strong link between your injuries and the other driver’s actions. From there, they can fight for full and fair compensation from the other party’s insurance company. They do this to ensure that you aren’t left suffering the financial consequences of someone else’s unsafe or negligent driving. If your main goal is a fair settlement, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident.

Discuss Your Case with Peake & Fowler

If you have been hurt in a car accident, it’s important to retain a trusted personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Insurance companies will do everything they can to keep you from getting the compensation you deserve. The team at Peake & Fowler is here to advocate for you and fight for full and fair compensation. Schedule a consultation now by connecting with us online or calling us at 803-788-4370.