The Dangers of Letting Unlicensed Minors Drive

woman driving a car

On Thursday, August 20, a man was sentenced for up to 16 years in prison for letting his 15-year-old unlicensed daughter drive his car, which was then involved in a severe accident killing three young individuals in Hamlin, Pennsylvania. He was charged with three counts of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment after lying to police about the incident.

The three teens who died in the accident attended Council Rock High School South outside Philadelphia. The driver was sentenced to perform community service, write letters of apology to the families affected by the accident, and pay $40,000 in fines. She was also placed on probation (and cannot drive) until she turns 21.

Parental (Vicarious) Liability in Car Accidents

Many parents do not realize that they can be legally responsible for their children’s negligence. In states such as Pennsylvania, the age of majority (i.e. the age until parents can be held liable) is 18, and the most common negligent acts involve minors in car accidents. In order for parents to be held liable for injuries caused by their children, the parents’ negligence has to have contributed to the actions, and the degree of responsibility depends upon:

  • Reasonability: whether the parents knew or should have known their child had a tendency to act in a dangerous manner; and
  • Foreseeability: whether the parents could or should have been able to see that their child was capable of the action.

In this parent’s instance, the court found that he was responsible for his daughter’s actions that caused the accident and resulting injuries. In addition, the owner of the vehicle can be found financially responsible for its negligent operation if it was being used by a family member and was provided consensually. However, this does not mean that teen drivers cannot also be held responsible for their actions (financially, etc.).

What about No-Fault Coverage?

If drivers involved in an accident have no-fault coverage, they are typically prohibited from suing unless the accident resulted in serious injury, which often involves serious impaired body function and/or permanent disfigurement. The exemption allows anyone who has been injured to seek compensation not only for their injuries, but any associated pain and suffering. However, a suit must be brought within the two-year statute of limitations.

Solnick & Associates LLC

Car accidents—particularly those involving teen drivers—can get complicated. It can be difficult to figure out who exactly is liable and what laws apply. It is always wise to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who regularly deals with car accidents if this is the case.

The Pennsylvania car accident lawyers at Solnick & Associates represent victims of car accidents in Philadelphia and surrounding areas, including Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware Counties, as well as New Jersey. Contact us today for a free consultation so that we can get started on your case.