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Dad giving car keys to teenage girl

3 Things You Should Know Before Letting Your Teen Drive

aw Office Of Mark A. Cornelius P.A.  Aug. 31, 2023

Bringing up a family in the 21st Century is certainly a lot more challenging than 100 years ago. When your child begins their elementary education, it’s almost imperative – to keep up with the Joneses, as the saying goes – that they get a smart phone. By high school time, your child will want to start driving in a show of independence and freedom. Phones present challenges of their own, but statistics on teenage driving are startling.  

Though teenagers in the United States drive less than everyone except the oldest segment of society, their number of crashes and crash fatalities are three times higher than the rate for drivers 20 years of age or older. Parents generally own the vehicles these teens are driving, and have them on their insurance policy, so the liability for injuries and property damage will fall first to the insurance company, and then to the parents in most cases. 

In fact, Florida has a statute that clearly establishes the liability of the parents. If your live-at-home son or daughter in or around Altamonte Springs ventures out and gets in a wreck, and you are worried about your liability, contact me at the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius, P.A. 

I have 25-plus years’ experience as a car accident and personal injury attorney. I can review your situation and advise you of the best steps to take going forward. I also proudly serve clients throughout Central Florida, including the cities of Seminole, Orange, Osceola, and Volusia, and the counties of Polk and Lake. 

What to Understand Before Giving Your Teen the Keys 

The first thing to understand is that Florida has a specific law requiring parents or guardians to sign when their child applies for a learner’s permit or driver’s license. By signing, the parent or guardian assumes liability, along with the child, for any injuries or property damages they cause. 

Florida Statutes Section 322.09 reads: 

“Any negligence or willful misconduct of a minor under the age of 18 years when driving a motor vehicle upon a highway shall be imputed to the person who has signed the application of such minor for a permit or license, which person shall be jointly and severally liable with such minor for any damages caused by such negligence or willful misconduct.” 

Negligence Can Be a Factor (Your Own or Your Teen's)

Though you may have not authorized your teen to use your vehicle, but he or she does so anyway and gets in a wreck, this can be a mitigating factor in your liability. Thus your own negligence can find you in the hot water of liability if you’re not careful.  

If you leave the keys to the family vehicle on the table while you’re upstairs sleeping or watching TV and your teen takes the keys and ventures out and gets in a wreck, that can represent negligence on your part. Also, if your teen has had several traffic violations and caused several crashes, and you let them behind the wheel anyway, that will likely fall under the category of parental negligence. 

Furthermore, under Florida law, you are responsible for your child who still resides at home even if they are older than 18 so long as they are still your dependent. The parents can be vicariously liable even for a 19-year-old living at as a dependent. Their negligence on the roadway can find you being held liable. 

Understanding the Damages You Might Be Responsible For

Of course, assuming you add your child to your auto insurance policy and you have appropriate coverage, then the insurer should be the first to pay. For injuries, the victim’s personal injury protection (PIP) should pay up to the limit they purchased, 

However, if your coverage is inadequate for the damages sustained, or the injuries are severe or the other party’s PIP limit is exceeded, then the victim could come after you for the uncovered portion, or for severe injuries.  

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help—Reach Out Immediately

In 2023, Florida switched its standard of comparative negligence from pure to modified. Pure comparative negligence meant either party could make a claim against the other party no matter how much at fault they were personally. Modified means that, to be successful in a claim such as a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff filing the suit must be 50 percent or less at fault. 

If you are facing a personal injury lawsuit because of your teen’s actions behind the wheel, then we can try to show the other driver was more than 50 percent at fault. Perhaps they made a sudden turn that caused the collision, or their brake lights malfunctioned. If we can prove they were more at fault than your child, then the consequences will lessen. The lawsuit could even get dismissed.  

If you’re in Central Florida and facing a car accident, property damage, or personal injury lawsuit resulting from your child’s driving, contact me at the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius, P.A. I will fight for your rights and aggressively pursue the most favorable outcome.