Visitor Question

Liability for our children using our third car for college?

Submitted By: Bob (Sacramento, CA)

Our two college students will we using our third vehicle, an 18 year old Camry. The car is on our insurance, but the two boys are not listed on the policy in CA. They are 20 and 24. There is another 20 year old that does not need a car at this time.

What is our level of liability in this situation? I know the insurance will be more, but are we much safer by transferring title and having them pay for their own insurance?

If we transfer title, will our retirement accounts be protected? Thank you for any information you can provide in regards to this situation.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Bob,

In most cases, parents are civilly responsible for the acts and omissions of their minor children when those acts or omissions cause property damage or personal injury to others. For purposes of civil actions, a parent’s liability for the acts or omissions of their minor children ends when that child reaches the age of 18.

In your case, all your sons are over the age of 18. As a result, the only way you would be civilly responsible is if you permit the title of the car to remain in your name.

If the car is in your name at a time when your sons are involved in a car accident, and the accident is a result of their negligence, then you as the owner of the car will be civilly liable for the damages caused by the accident.

For purposes of personal injury claims, damages can include property damage, medical and therapy bills, out of pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

You can consider transferring the title of the car to one of your sons.

If you do, in the event one or more of your sons become involved in an accident, you would have no civil liability. The liability would fall upon whichever son was named on the title of the car, and whichever son was driving the car at the time if the accident.

By transferring title of the car to one of your sons, in the event they cause an accident, your assets, including savings, home, retirement accounts and more, would be untouchable.

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

Best of luck,

Published: January 4, 2016

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