Are Parents Liable for an Accident Caused by Their Teen?
Massachusetts is one of about a dozen states that have no-fault auto insurance laws in place. What this means is that anyone involved in a vehicular accident must turn first to their own insurance to recover for medical expenses. Only if certain conditions are met – a dollar threshold and/or severe injuries – can the injured party sue the other driver if the accident were that person’s fault.
But what if your son or daughter uses your car, or even their own while living with you and causes an accident that results in serious injuries? Since your child likely won’t have many assets to justify a lawsuit, can the victim or victims sue you as the parents? The answer can be yes, but it depends on the circumstances to a large degree.
If you are being sued for injuries caused by your child’s driving in or around Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, contact me at the Law Office of James A. Maniatis. I have been representing clients in car accident/personal injury cases for more than 30 years, and I have the experience, knowledge, and resources to help you in your case. I have offices not only in Shrewsbury but also in Southborough and Webster.
Massachusetts Auto Insurance Laws
As noted, Massachusetts is a no-fault auto insurance state. The primary characteristic of no-fault insurance is something called Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP is the feature that covers your medical expenses and lost wages should you be injured in an auto accident, regardless of whose fault it is. In Massachusetts, the basic PIP coverage is $8,000.
In addition to PIP, Massachusetts requires you to carry an auto policy that provides at least:
$20,000 in liability coverage for bodily injury for one person when you cause the accident
$40,000 in liability coverage for bodily injury to all persons in an accident you cause
$5,000 in liability coverage for property damage you cause to others
Uninsured motorist coverage for bodily injury you or your passengers sustain for $20,000 per person and $40,000 for everyone injured
Your son or daughter who lives with you should be covered under your policy or even their own, but if an accident breaches these limits, you as the parent could be sued for personal injury or property damage under certain circumstances. Purchasing higher limits is always recommended.
Going Beyond PIP: Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Massachusetts law allows someone injured in a vehicular accident to sue the at-fault driver if one of two conditions or both are met. The first condition is that your medical expenses exceed $2,000, and the second is that your injuries result in permanent and serious disfigurement, fractured bones, or substantial loss of hearing or sight. You can sue if either condition is met.
Are Parents Liable for Accidents Caused by Their Teen?
There are different legal premises for suing a driver’s parents. One is the principle of negligent entrustment. Say you let your child use your car when you know they present a risk to others; for instance, your teen has had their license suspended or has been charged with reckless driving and caused numerous accidents. This could be considered negligent entrustment.
Another principle is vicarious liability. This applies if your child is pursuing a family “purpose.” For instance, you send your child out to buy groceries for dinner and cause an accident. You could be considered vicariously liable.
Massachusetts Laws Governing Lawsuits Against Parents
Massachusetts has on its books what is known as a social host law. This means that you as a parent can be held liable for the actions of your underaged child if you let them drink at a party and then get behind the wheel and cause an accident. Massachusetts also has a dram shop law, which holds bars and liquor store owners liable for auto accidents if they sell liquor to minors.
Filing a Lawsuit Against a Parent
Parents obviously have assets that a teenage driver would not, so in some accidents, the victims may seek to recover damages from the parents if they cannot cover their losses through the insurance claims process. They can try to show negligent entrustment or vicarious liability, but both legal principles can pose challenges in proving. Still, if you are being sued as a parent, facing a lawsuit of whatever merit can prove costly and emotionally draining.
Speak With an Experienced Attorney
If you are facing a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a car accident caused by your child, you need to seek the counsel and guidance of an experienced car accident/personal injury attorney immediately. I have more than three decades of experience in handling personal injury claims and lawsuits, and I can assess your situation and help you mount a strong defense.
Contact me at the Law Office of James A. Maniatis at any of my three locations: Shrewsbury, Southborough, and Webster, Massachusetts. I proudly serve clients in neighboring communities, including Westborough, Northborough, Grafton, Boylston, Millbury, and more.