Can Parents Be Sued if a Teen Driver Causes a Crash in Texas?
Learn about auto accidents caused by teen drivers and what Texas law says about parental responsibility for damages
Texas, like so many U.S. states, has its fair share of car crashes. In a highly populated area like Houston, the number of vehicles on the roads is often a challenge to young, inexperienced drivers.
Depending on the severity of the crash as well as the injuries or fatalities that result, it's always important to know Texas laws regarding auto accidents, particularly for parents of teen drivers.
Common causes of crashes involving teen drivers, include:
- Excessive speed and exceeding posted speed limits
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Distracted driving (texting and driving, other passengers, etc.)
- Ignoring traffic signals and stop signs
The Texas Safety Responsibility Act
Laws for teen drivers are covered under Title 7, Subtitle D, Chapter 601 of the Safety Responsibility Act (also known as the Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act).
In Texas, teen drivers may be punished for deliberate violations of the Safety Responsibility Act and their parents can be legally responsible for paying court fines and court costs if their teen doesn’t have the financial resources to satisfy the penalty.
The part of the Safety Responsibility Act pertaining to financial responsibility is as follows:
A person may not operate a motor vehicle in this state unless financial responsibility is established for that vehicle.(source)
In Texas, part of the responsibility for teen driver crashes includes the mandate that drivers must be covered with a minimum amount of liability insurance for injury and death of victims of crashes.
Lawsuits Resulting from Teen Driver Crashes
As a proportional comparative fault state, Texas law maintains that a driver at least 51 percent at fault for a car crash cannot file a claim for liability or sue other parties involved in the crash.
At the scene of the car crash, Texas law enforcement will write a police report which determines the percentage of fault between all parties involved.
Family Car Doctrine vs. Negligent Entrustment in Texas
Many states implement the "Family Car Doctrine," which states that the owner of a vehicle is liable for damages or injuries done to others even if a member of the family is driving the vehicle—regardless of whether or not the owner gave permission.
Texas does not follow this rule. Rather, Texas courts applies "Negligent Entrustment" in car crashes which takes into account:
- Driver negligence at the time of the crash
- Whether or not the negligence was foreseeable in the case of injury
- Whether or not the vehicle owner knowingly entrusted a vehicle to an unlicensed, reckless or incompetent driver
Seek Legal Advice to Determine Liability
With the assistance of an expert legal counselor, certain details and unique circumstances of the crash may or may not hold parents liable for accidents caused by their teen driver. It’s worth noting that if a teen crashes a friend's vehicle, the teen may be liable under vicarious liability laws.
In some cases, a driver or passenger injured by a teen driver in a car crash may choose to sue the parents of the teen for negligence. This assumes the vehicle owner has liability insurance covering the teen driver and vehicle for damages and injuries to others.
Wading Through Liability Insurance
All too often, vehicle owners and drivers barely scan their liability insurance documents. Some may not understand all the terminology commonly used in liability documents.
Should a lawsuit emerge as a result of a teen driver crash, lawsuits are usually relegated to a settlement between two insurance companies.
Driving Instruction to Reduce Liability
Parents of teen drivers should consult with their legal advisor regarding specific details contained in their insurance liability coverage as it relates to car crashes.
In Houston, incidences of teen driver car accidents increase when the teen hasn’t received proper driving instruction. Driver education courses can help reinforce driving skills in adolescents and provide instruction on the operation of a vehicle in a variety of circumstances. This may help reduce liability for parents and potential for lawsuits.
Choose Houston's Top Auto Accident Experts
In Houston, the top legal experts regarding teen car crash cases can be found at the Neal Davis Law Firm. Neal Davis has successfully assisted clients for more than two decades.
We advise introducing and familiarizing your teen driver with the driver education courses that help them feel more confident behind the wheel and become more aware of their personal responsibility. Lastly, don’t forget to set a good example. As a parent, you can save yourself a whole lot of hassle, stress, and worry down the road by being a good example now showing your teen how to drive safely.
To learn more about your legal rights as a parent should your teen be involved in a car crash, contact us today for free consultation.