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Are Parents Responsible for a Teen’s Car Accident?

Published: Jun 13, 2022 in Auto Accident, Personal Injury
The East St. Louis Car Accident Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Help Victims Seriously Injured by Negligent Teen Drivers.

As is the case with many legal questions, it depends on whether parents are responsible for the teenager’s car accident. In most cases, a parent will not be held responsible for their child’s negligent driving, but there are some situations where they will be held responsible. Although, practically speaking, parents will ultimately be responsible for their teenager’s accidents in the sense that most parents pay the automobile insurance on the vehicles in their household. If their teenager is at-fault with a car crash and their automobile insurance premium goes up, then the parents are responsible for that. But other than that, there are instances where a parent can be held responsible for an accident when their teenager fails to follow the rules of the road and gets into a crash and seriously hurts someone.

Parental Knowledge

It all comes down to what the parent knows about their teenager before they get into a crash. Most parents have mixed feelings when their child begins their driving career: a mix of pride that their teenager is growing up and taking on responsibility, tempered by feelings of trepidation about them driving. Everyone knows that there is always a chance that a car crash can happen to anyone driving on the roads and highways, no matter how safe of a driver they are. But teenagers who drive do not get special treatment. They still have to follow the rules of the road and the law just like everyone else out there driving.

What Does Illinois Law Say?

Under the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law states (740 ILCS 115 of Illinois Compiled Statutes) a parent or legal guardian is legally liable for purposeful or intentional acts that result in the harm or injury of another and were caused by a minor child. Therefore, under the IPRL, if the automobile collision was the result of a purposeful or intentional act, then the parents could ultimately be held responsible.

The IPRL does not just apply to teenagers and their driving habits. It applies to all actions of children and how their parents might be held responsible. For example, the law could also be applied to a child getting into a fist fight at school.

Under the IPRL, a parent’s responsibility for the intentional actions of their child begins at the age of 11 and stops at the age of 19. In order to be held responsible under the IPRL though, the minor child must not be emancipated from their parents and must physically reside with the parents.

Under the IPRL, if the car crash is truly caused by the negligent conduct of the teenage driver, then the parents cannot be held responsible for the crash and resulting injuries. A detailed review of the teenager’s actions leading up to the crash would have to take place. If, for example, a teenager failed to see a stop sign and ran through an intersection causing an accident with another vehicle, the parents cannot be held responsible, assuming the teenager did not purposely run through the stop sign and it was truly mere negligent driving. But take, for example, another scenario where the teenager intentionally drinks alcohol and then intentionally gets behind the wheel and drives under the influence. This would be a case where the IPRL statute could come into play and hold the parents responsible.

Damages Under the IPRL

If the IPRL does apply, an injured victim can hold the parents responsible for the crash and the injuries, but the parents may not be responsible for all damages. Under the IPRL, parents can be held responsible for only the actual monetary damages. For example, if there are unpaid medical bills, lost wages, property damage, or some other actual monetary loss, then the parents can be forced to pay those damages. The parent will not be responsible for damages allotted for pain and suffering or punitive damages. There is a cap of $20,000 that any parent has to pay. If the child has prior incidents that could be covered under the IPRL, then the cap will be raised to $30,000.

Negligent Entrustment

The legal concept of “negligent entrustment” can also be used to hold a parent responsible for a car accident caused by their teenager. If the teen driver causes a crash while driving the family vehicle, and the teen has had accidents in the past, then the parents could be liable for any injuries or damages. In Illinois, this is known as the Family Purpose Doctrine. The family purpose doctrine holds a vehicle owner liable for damages caused by their family members when they use their vehicle. The owner does not have to give permission. The owner should have control over their vehicle due to how dangerous they can be.

In most cases, as long as there is enough insurance covering the at-fault vehicle, then the injured victim can be made whole solely through that insurance policy. The IPRL and negligent entrustment usually has to be used when the at-fault teen driven vehicle does not have enough insurance or has no insurance. They are used to pull into the lawsuit another source of funds to make the seriously injured plaintiff whole again through compensation for their injuries.

The East St. Louis Car Accident Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Help Victims Seriously Injured by Negligent Teen Drivers

If you have been seriously injured in a car accident that was caused by a teenage driver, our East St. Louis car accident lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC have decades of experience in successfully handling serious and complex cases. For a free consultation, call us at 618-277-3644 or complete our online form. Our Swansea, Illinois offices serve clients in Belleville, Carbondale, East St. Louis, Granite City, Edwardsville, Chester, Waterloo, St. Louis, Madison County, St. Clair County, Monroe County, and Randolph County.