Who is liable for 4 wheeler crash?

by Curious
(Michigan)

My son was injured while staying the night at his friends home. My son was not the only non-family member staying that night at the home. The property owner/ATV owner/parent supervisor's daughter gave her 14 year old friend permission to drive the family 4 wheeler. My son was told to get on the back for a ride.

My son got on the 4 wheeler with the friend who was staying the night and off they went. The 4 wheeler was rolled and my son sustained major injuries.

The 4 wheeler was covered under the owner's ATV policy. My son's injuries (medical/pain and suffering) exceeds the liability limits on the ATV policy. Since the driver was not related to the owner of the ATV, is her parent liable for their daughter crashing the 4 wheeler and injuring my son?

The girl was inexperienced, driving reckless, and taking hills and corners at moderate speed prior to rolling the 4 wheeler. Who is liable in this situation? What are our options for pursuing compensation for our son's medical bills? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Who is liable for 4 wheeler crash?":

Curious (Michigan):

The controlling Michigan Statute for Parental liability for acts of children, when those acts result in bodily harm to third parties, can be found in Michigan Statute, Section 600.2913

The statute reads in part: "A person may recover damages in an amount not to exceed $2,500.00 in a civil action against the parents or parent of an unemancipated minor living with his or her parents or parent, who has maliciously or willfully caused bodily harm or injury to a person."

Unfortunately, because there is no evidence the 14 year old's actions which caused injuries to your son were willful or malicious, her actions can not be legally imputed by statute to her parents.

However, just because the Michigan Statute limits liability of parents, that doesn't mean you can't pursue the 14 year old's parents outside of the statute and under the legal doctrine of negligence.

To succeed in a claim against the parents will require you to show they were negligent in allowing their daughter to drive the 4 wheeler. From the facts you present, there is no evidence the 14 year old took the keys without her parents' knowledge. As a result, the parents were clearly negligent in permitting their daughter to drive.

The injuries to your son may be covered under the parents' homeowner's policy. Contact the parents and ask for their homeowners insurance company's contact information. If they refuse, you can consider retaining an attorney who will pursue the case.

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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