Are Georgia Parents Liable for Auto Accidents Caused by Their Teenage Kids?
Most people know that teen drivers are statistically more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents than other age groups. Teenagers generally have limited driving experience which impairs their ability to cope with driving distractions and can lead teens to underestimate the risk of certain hazardous driving practices. Georgia and other states have enacted statutes that specifically target driving practices that contribute to teen accidents, such as driver's license restrictions on nighttime driving and transporting teen passengers that are not immediate family members. Georgia State law also imposes a zero tolerance policy for underage DUI that carries a one year driver's license suspension for a first offense.
Despite these teen driving restrictions, drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 still account for a disproportionate number of car crash related injuries and fatalities. Although drivers in this age range account for only 8.5 percent of licensed Georgia drivers, they are involved in almost 13 percent of collisions that cause 17 percent of all vehicle-related injuries according to the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety. Some traffic safety experts project that the disproportionate number of crashes involving teens will continue to rise. These projections are founded in the fact that teens are neutralizing the effectiveness of Georgia's graduated licensing program, which is known as the Teen and Adult Driver Responsibility Law (TADRA), by postponing the process of obtaining their driver's license.
Given the high volume of accidents that involve teen drivers, our Atlanta motor vehicle collision lawyers at Montlick and Associates sometimes receive inquiries about a parent's liability for an accident caused by their kids. While parents are not generally vicariously liable for car crashes caused by their kids under Georgia law, parents may still be financially responsible in certain situations. The basis for imposing liability for auto accident related injuries or fatalities on parents may be based on the theory of negligent entrustment or Georgia's family purpose doctrine rather than the mere existence of the parent-child relationship.
Parents might be liable for an accident caused by their teenagers based on the legal theory of negligent entrustment if they furnish their teens with a motor vehicle when they know or should know that their teens are not competent to operate the vehicle safely. The parent may be aware that his or her child has been involved in prior car accidents or that the teen has received repeated traffic citations for hazardous driving practices. Under this theory of liability, parents could be determined to be liable based on their own negligent behavior in entrusting kids with a dangerous instrumentality.
Another basis for imposing liability on parents for car accidents caused by their teenage kids is referred to as the "family purpose doctrine." This legal theory imposes liability on a parent or a head of household for an accident involving his or her kid when the vehicle is provided for the convenience, pleasure, and enjoyment of members of the family.
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If you or someone close to you is injured in a collision with a recently licensed driver, our Georgia accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing injury victims for over thirty years throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.
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