Teen Driver Liability Guidelines in Austin
Vehicle accidents involving minors where the minor is at fault can be complicated cases. Many parents in Austin, Texas, are unsure how liability works in such situations. There are some common laws and guidelines to give involved parties an idea of the legal road ahead, but there are many variables.
The Family Purpose Doctrine and Vicarious Liability
One of a parent’s primary concerns in such a case is whether they will be held liable for their child’s car accident. Texas, among other states, follows the Family Purpose Doctrine. Past court decisions have set precedents that make this doctrine significantly harder to apply. First, the minor must have been entrusted with the vehicle directly. They cannot have taken the vehicle without permission. Second, the parent must be aware of the minor’s tendency to drive recklessly. This second aspect can be especially difficult to prove. Even knowledge of past traffic violations are not necessarily sufficient evidence to indicate a parent’s knowledge of the minor’s reckless driving. Unless both of these aspects can be proven, then the parent is not usually held liable for the auto accident. Other involved parties will not be able to sue the parents for additional damages unless they are found liable under the Family Purpose Doctrine. They may still need to deal with any insurance claims related to the car accident, especially if the minor is included under their insurance policy.
Many parties involved in an auto accident with a minor are allowed to pursue that person directly for damages. From a parent’s standpoint, it may worthwhile to include any minor entrusted with a vehicle in the insurance policy, and that policy should have enough liability coverage for car accidents involving significant injury or death. If parents are found liable under the above Family Purpose Doctrine, then the involved parties may sue the minor in addition to the parents, or they may choose to sue only the parents. A qualified car accident attorney will advise as to the best course of action in reclaiming damages.
It is important know that Family Purpose Doctrine does not apply if the minor is given ownership or title of the vehicle. In this case, the minor is considered to be the vehicle’s sole owner, and thus the parents are not involved in the case and cannot be sued for damages.
Important Ownership Guidelines
The laws surrounding liability are directly related to the names listed on the title of the vehicle. Only those listed on the title or directly involved in the car accident can be liable regardless of any other relationship between them. This can be used as a protection in certain cases. If a title only has one parent listed, only that parent can be sued for additional damages. This means that it is recommended to only have one parent listed on the title of any vehicle entrusted to a minor.
Remember that consulting a knowledgeable personal injury attorney is always the best course of action in a teenage driver liability case regardless of any circumstances. If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident caused by a minor, call the experienced car accident attorneys at Zinda Law Group at 512-246-2224 to receive a free case evaluation.