Personal liability exposure for carpooling a friend's minor child?

by Dee
(Jacksonville, Florida)

Nothing has happened...this is a preventive measure question regarding liability in the event of an auto accident, injury or death of an unrelated minor child being transported from school to their home for free, in the the State of Florida in my Florida registered personal vehicle.

We (husband & wife) have taken the following actions:

* $1 million umbrella liability (Assets less than $1mil)

* Increased limits for Auto Insurance Liability, Bodily Injury, and Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage

* Vehicle titled in husband's name only, but wife is driving the vehicle to/from school with our minor daughter (4 years old) and a friend's daughter (5 years old)

* Using proper restraints, car/booster seats in accordance with state law, obeying all traffic laws, and obtaining regular maintenance on 2001 minivan

QUESTION(S): Assuming a properly drafted and executed release...

1. Can the parents waive their rights to sue us in the event of an accident or injury to their minor child?

2. Can the parents waive their minor child's future tort claims against us or execute a pre-injury release on behalf of their minor child?

3. Are we still exposed to lawsuit by the Medical Insurer of the child?

4. If we are sued by the child's medical insurer or any other party on behalf of the child, is an agreement for the parents to pay our legal fees and costs to defend against such claims enforceable based on court rulings?

5. Are there any other suggested steps to limit liability?

Thank you so much for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Personal liability exposure for carpooling a friend's minor child?":

Dee (Jacksonville, Florida):

You have asked the following questions and we will do our best to discuss them with you.

You ask:

1. Can the parents waive their rights to sue us in the event of an accident or injury to their minor child?

Answer: No. Parents cannot waive their children's rights to be compensated in case of bodily injury or death. In the unlikely event you attempted to have a child's interest waived, and if that child was injured, it is likely the court would appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the child's interests.

2. Can the parents waive their minor child's future tort claims against us or execute a pre-injury release on behalf of their minor child?

Answer: The same answer applies to this question. A child's welfare must be protected at all times, and a parent cannot take action to undermine or circumvent that policy.

Not only can a a court appoint an attorney ad litem to protect the child's interest in an injury case, but the same court can also appoint an attorney ad litem to pursue a legal action against the parents for their legally inappropriate attempts at waiving their child's rights to compensation for their injuries.

An example might be a parent waiving rights to a child's injuries. Then the child is seriously injured and will require medical attention for the rest of his life. What happens when the parents are out of the picture? Who is going to pay for the child's medical bills?

The child wasn't given an opportunity to protect himself. A child has a right to be protected and that is why it is against public policy to allow a parent to waive his rights in that manner.

3. Are we still exposed to a lawsuit by the Medical Insurer of the child?

Answer: In case of injury the medical insurer may "subrogate" the claim against you. (Sue you for the money they paid on the child's behalf.)

4. If we are sued by the child's medical insurer or any other party on behalf of the child, is an agreement for the parents to pay our legal fees and costs to defend against such claims enforceable based on court rulings?

Answer: It might be. That is because such action would not prejudice a child's welfare nor his best interests.

5. Are there any other suggested steps to limit liability?

Answer: Yes. Insure yourselves heavily.

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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