Teen Drivers: What Parents Need to Know About Liability
Getting a driver’s license and finally getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and go is one of the most exciting events in a teenager’s life. For many teens, this milestone represents freedom and self-reliance. For their parents, it can inspire a new level of anxiety previously unknown.
When you have a teen driver, you likely have plenty of concerns about your child’s safety on the road. Beyond their physical wellbeing, you may also have questions about the financial repercussions of an accident. Could you be held liable for damage caused by your teen driver?
The short answer is yes. According to Section 56-1-110 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, once a parent or guardian signs their teenager’s application for a beginner’s permit, instruction permit or driver’s license, they become “jointly and severally liable for the motor vehicle negligence of the minor, unless there is a policy of insurance in place which provides required coverage.”
Your insurance will likely cover some of the damage caused by your teen son or daughter. However, should the number of damages exceeds the amount provided by liability coverage, you could be sued for up to $5,000 more, and your teen could also be responsible for even more, as there is no such liability limit for the teen driver.
In some circumstances, you could be sued for far more than $5,000, such as when your teenager acted out of malicious or willful intent. The Family Purpose Doctrine states that the parent is financially responsible for damages caused by a teen driver when they are using a family vehicle for a “family purpose.” An example of a family purpose is going to the store for groceries or giving a sibling a ride, any task in which the child is acting as their parent’s agent.
Teens are notorious for their enthusiasm behind the wheel, but they are also extremely vulnerable as new drivers. In their first 18 months of driving, teens are four times as likely as an adult to be in an accident. Common causes of teen auto accidents include inexperience, speeding, distracted driving and intoxication.
The experienced attorneys of Steinberg Law Firm are prepared to help your family in the event of a car accident involving your teenager. To learn how we can help you, call 843-720-2800, or contact us through our online form. We represent clients throughout South Carolina with offices in Charleston, Goose Creek and Summerville.
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