Can a parent be held liable if their child as a car accident?

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Can a parent be held liable if their child as a car accident?

My 16 year-old unlicensed son stole my van and got in an accident with another vehicle. Damage was done to both vehicles. If I press theft charges against him my insurer with deny the other persons claim for the damage. Since he is a minor and I am his parent could they come after me for the damages even though he stole my van?

Asked on November 30, 2010 under Accident Law, Utah

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Case law varies from state to state on how this type of scenario plays out.  First, did you report the car stolen?  Convincing a court that he actually stole the keys can be difficult if he had ever driven that car before (here it appears because of his age he may not have alone but maybe you gave him lessons?), if you ever expressly forbid him driving the vehicle,  if he had access to the keys (they were in a conspicuous place), etc.  But you as the owner of the vehicle could be ultimately liable for damages if the courts find that he had some sort of permission to drive the car (express or implied).  I would seek legal help in all of this.  Good luck.


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