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Am I Liable If My Student Driver Causes a Car Accident?

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When your teenager receives their learner’s permit or driver’s license, they take the first step into a wider world of adult freedoms and responsibilities. While having a student driver is an exciting time, it also carries its fair share of risk factors. Teenagers within the first few months of learning to drive are significantly more likely than other driver groups to get into a crash.

You hope you never have to face the scenario, but what happens if your student driver causes a car crash? After you’ve determined your child is safe following the incident, how do you determine liability for the incident? Could you be held accountable for the accident? 

When You’re Not Liable

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If your newly licensed child is 18 and legally owns the car involved in the crash, then you will generally not face liability. They may be new to driving, but legally speaking, they’re an adult with full agency and responsibility.
Another scenario where you’ll usually avoid liability is if you don’t currently have legal custody of the child. Legally speaking, whatever your child does while outside your custody is entirely out of your control, so you’re generally safe from liability concerns here.

When You Are Liable

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To understand one way you might be liable for your child’s actions, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the phrase “vicarious liability.” In Indiana, you may have heard the phrase “family purpose,” which has the same legal meaning.

Say you’ve instructed your child to make a run to the grocery store with your car. On the way, they get into an accident. Since your child sought to fulfill a “purpose” for your family, and you’re ultimately the one in charge of how and when they use the vehicle, you’ll likely be liable for any accidents they cause.

Another concept to consider is “negligent entrustment.”

If you knowingly entrust a vehicle—under your name and insurance—to a student driver who has a history of either reckless driving or similar problems on the road (speeding tickets, to name a common example), and they get into an accident, you may face legal consequences.

Put simply: if you knew the student was a hazard to other drivers and pedestrians, and let them use your car anyway, you could be liable.

Understanding the risk of entrusting a car to a learning or newly licensed driver is essential in understanding the liability you may face if your child gets into an accident. These laws are in place to protect both the victims of the accident and the student behind the wheel.

Help from an Indiana Car Accident Lawyer

Being a student driver is an exciting, yet potentially perilous time. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident involving a student driver, Hensley Legal Group may be able to help. Call us today or contact us online for a free conversation about your claim. Our Indiana car accident lawyers are here to help.