If you are determined to be at fault for an accident that causes injury to another driver, you can be named in a personal injury case and sued for that driver's medical expenses, lost wages, and other injury-related expenses. What happens when it's not you, but rather your child, who causes an accident when driving? Whether or not you can be named in a personal injury case when your child causes an accident depends on several factors.
Is your child a minor?
If your child is over the age of 18, he or she will be named directly in a personal injury lawsuit. This will be the case regardless of whether your child still lives with you, is financially independent, or has a separate insurance policy from your own. The only exception may be if you knew your adult child was unfit to drive, but you let him or her take a car that belonged to you anyways. If your child is a minor under the age of 18, the circumstances that follow will determine whether you or the child is named in a personal injury lawsuit.
Does the car belong to you, or your child?
If the car is registered in your child's name, then generally, the injured driver will name your child directly in a personal injury case. However, the driver will not usually be able to collect from your child until he or she turns 18 and starts earning money. If the driver wins the case, your child will be presented with a legal statement from the court that includes the amount owed when he or she does come of age.
Since pursuing such a case against a minor is a long and involved process, many drivers won't bother to sue your child under these circumstances unless the damages were substantial. Also keep in mind that in the state of Florida, a driver's own auto insurance is required to cover medical expenses and lost income regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Personal injury suits can only be filed if the driver suffered permanent injury, significant scarring or disfigurement. If the injuries were minor, you should not have to worry about a lawsuit being filed against you or your child.
Did you let your minor child drive the car even though you knew he or she would drive recklessly or negligently?
If so, you may be named in a personal injury case. This situation is known as negligent entrustment. The law reasons that if you knew your child was not capable of driving safely and let him or her drive anyways, this qualifies as negligence on your part. By demonstrating that your negligence led to the car crash, which led to injuries, the driver hit by your child can file a successful personal injury case against you.
What does and does not qualify as negligent entrustment is often a judgement call. Whether the other driver can win a case against you based on negligent entrustment will depend on his or her lawyer's ability to prove you were aware that your child was unfit to drive. Some circumstances are easier to confirm than others. For example, if your child was drinking alcohol at your home and you let him or her get behind the wheel, it's easy to make a case for negligent entrustment. On the other hand, if you knew your child was feeling ill or angry and let him or her drive, whether or not this qualifies as negligent entrustment largely depends on the judge's opinion.
If your child is at fault for an accident that caused severe injuries to another driver, it's wise to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Whether you or your child is named in the case, having a good attorney on your side, such as Schiller, Kessler & Gomez, PLC, will allow you to defend yourself and hopefully avoid having to pay for the damages.