Generally, parents are not responsible for torts committed by their minor
child. This rule dates back to a California Supreme Court case from 1885.
However, the legislature has carved out several exceptions to this general
rule, including limited parental responsibility for motor vehicle accidents
caused by minors.
Under current law, if a minor causes a
motor vehicle acciden
t, the parents also are responsible for up to $15,000 for injury or death
to any person, up to a maximum of $30,000 per accident, and up to $5,000
for property damage. These amounts correspond to the minimum insurance
coverage required by California law, but in many instances this is insufficient
to fully compensate accident victims for all of their damages.
However, a parent may be responsible for the full value of your damages
if the parent's own negligence contributed to the accident. Examples
of parental negligence include: negligently supervising a minor driving
with a learner's permit or negligently entrusting their vehicle to
a minor the parent knew or should have known would drive negligently.
In cases where the parent has done nothing to cause or contribute to the
accident, his/her responsibility is limited. However, in cases where the
parent is negligent because of his/her own failure to properly supervise
their minor child, the above limits do not apply.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a minor, you should immediately
seek advice from a knowledgeable injury attorney to determine whether
your damages will be limited or whether you can force the parent's
to take responsibility for their child's negligence beyond these limits.
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