Parents' liability for a car accident?

by Jennifer
(Winter Springs, FL)

If my 17 year old son was in a car accident, and he has no previous traffic violations and is a good student, can the parent/step parent be sued if the car is registered in the mother's name? He has insurance. Would it be different is the car was registered in his name? What are the liability considerations in this scenario? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Parents' liability for a car accident?":

Jennifer (Winter Springs, FL):

Presuming your son was at-fault for the accident, his lack of previous traffic violations or his good standing as a student would be irrelevant.

The State of Florida is a "No-Fault" insurance state. This means the insured's own insurance company will pay for the insured's property damage and medical bills, regardless of who is found to be responsible for causing the accident. Learn more about no-fault insurance here.

Florida requires drivers to carry minimum car insurance in the amounts of:

- $10,000.00 for injuries to one person

- $20,000.00 for injuries to two or more persons

- $10,000.00 for property damage

If the accident was caused by your son and he was insured at the time of the accident, his insurance will cover the property damage and/or personal injuries up to his policy limits. This is true even if the car was registered in the mother's name (your name) and was insured under your name.

Parents can be held liable for the negligent acts of their children. In this case, your son was a minor at the time of the accident. As a result, his biological parents and/or legal guardian may be liable for property damage and/or personal injuries caused by him. In most cases, step parents can not be held liable for the acts of their step children.

However, as long as there is sufficient insurance to cover the property damage and/or personal injuries, no one has to sue anyone. A lawsuit would only occur if the amount of property damage and/or personal injury costs exceeds the amount of available insurance. If that is the case, you and your son may be sued personally by the victims of a car accident caused by your son.

For more information about Florida's no-fault insurance law go to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.

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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