Can Northern Virginia Parents Be Held Liable For Automobile Accidents Caused By Their Children?

By Peter DePaolis

Virginia law generally does not hold parents responsible if their children cause an automobile accident. However, there are some important exceptions to this that all parents need to know. If you or a loved one were victimized by a car accident caused by a minor, you may have the right to pursue monetary compensation for your injuries. Call Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today to discuss your legal rights.

I’ve Been Hit By A Teen Driver – Who Is Liable?

The general rule in Virginia is that parents are not held liable for car wrecks caused by their children. But this is not an absolute rule. If a child under the age of 16 drives a motor vehicle, for example, the parents could be held liable if the child gets into an accident. This leads to a related issue known as negligent entrustment. In the context of automobile accidents, negligent entrustment refers to the act of letting someone drive your vehicle who – due to mental or physical impairment – should not.

Negligent entrustment is not limited to a parent allowing a young child to drive. For example, if you know someone is under the influence of alcohol and you allow that person to drive your vehicle, you could be held liable in the event of an accident.

In the context of accidents caused by children, the doctrine of negligent entrustment means the parents know that the child driver is unfit or unsafe to operate the vehicle. However, this is not an open-ended doctrine. As an example, a child may have had prior traffic citations for unsafe driving. Perhaps the child was even in an automobile accident in the past. There would have to be more than this for the parents to be held liable under negligent entrustment.

On the other hand, if the child driver has a restricted or suspended license, and the parents let the child use the family vehicle, negligent entrustment could apply in the event of an accident. The same is true if the child has some kind of mental or physical impairment or is under the influence of alcohol. Another example where this doctrine can be used is if the vehicle itself was defective and the parents knew it ahead of time.

Generally speaking, to use negligent entrustment, a victim needs to be able to show that either the parents knew a child would use a vehicle in an unsafe manner or that the parents could have reasonably foreseen such use. Establishing this is not easy, which means the use of negligent entrustment is fairly limited in Virginia. As with all cases involving automobile accidents, the specific facts in the case will prove critical to the outcome.

Contact Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP Today

If you’ve been injured because of someone’s underage child, acting quickly will be essential to winning the compensation you deserve. You could be facing significant damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and much more. Those damages can add up quickly and cause severe financial strain if you don’t take legal action soon.

Let the dedicated team at Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP review your case and let you know what your legal options are. Call us to schedule your confidential consultation.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.