Are parents liable for damages in excess of insurance policy limits?

by Steve
(Hood River, OR)

Our 19-year old daughter was driving on the interstate (we live in Oregon) on a winter day. Conditions became icy and she lost control of the vehicle (was under the speed limit, but driving too fast for conditions - no citation issued). Her car collided with a median barrier then crashed into another vehicle in the adjacent lane traveling in the same direction.

One of the parties in the other vehicle had well-documented neck and back injuries and is asking for damages in excess of the policy limit ($500K vs. $250K limit).

Our daughter was driving a vehicle I had purchased for her (title still in Dad's name) and is on her parent's auto insurance policy as an insured driver. Are we parents liable for the damages she caused in excess of the policy limit? What are our options? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Are parents liable for damages in excess of insurance policy limits?":

Steve (Hood River, OR):

For legal purposes, your daughter was an adult at the time of the accident. From the facts you present, your daughter is liable for the damages she may have caused in the accident. Damages can include the victim's medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Here's a more in-depth look at everything you can claim for damages.

As one of the parents, you are not liable for damages within or in excess of the insurance policy limits. For adults, those who may be liable for injuries they cause are the adult driver and the owner of the car, if the owner is different. Because the title to the car was in your daughter's father's name at the time of the accident, your daughter's father and your daughter can be liable.

The insurance policy owner is not personally liable for a victim's damages. This is true only if the policy holder was not the driver or the owner of the car.

In your case, you were neither the driver nor the owner of the car. Therefore, even if your insurance isn't sufficient to pay for the excess of your $250,000 limit, the victim can't seek additional compensation from you. Unfortunately, the victim can seek that additional compensation from your daughter or her father personally.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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