Will I be liable if my child gets in an auto accident? 24 Answers as of February 20, 2012

I want to finance a car for my son under my name. I won't be driving it, it's his. If he is in an accident and his insurance doesn't cover damages fully, will I be liable? Does my name have to be on the Registration? They told me to ask the loan people. Loan people said to ask insurance carrier. Insurance carrier said to check with Registration. Is there a way to do this so I'm not liable in case of accident?

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Law Offices of Richard Copeland, LLC
Law Offices of Richard Copeland, LLC | Richard Copeland
Letting your child drive your vehicle doesn't automatically make you liable for an accident the child causes. Normally, the driver is going to be responsible for his own actions. If his insurance doesn't cover it, he will be responsible for the excess damages. You can be liable, however, if you let your child or anyone else drive your car when you know that the person is not a good or safe driver. If you do, you can be liable for the other driver's actions because you knew better or should have known better than to have let the bad driver drive your vehicle. This is called negligent entrustment. It's a good idea to inquire about the driving record of anyone who asks to use your car and deny them permission if their record isn't clean.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 8/11/2011
Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
Yes, if you are the registered owner, you will have personal liability. If your son is under 18, in Florida the car has to be in your name, or in the name of another adult. You could set up a trust, with your son being the named beneficiary of the trust, and title the car in the name of the trust. I have seen that done before to limit the liability of the parent.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 8/11/2011
Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A.
Ewusiak & Roberts, P.A. | Christopher J. Roberts
The bottom line is that if you own the vehicle (which could easily be established if your name is on the title or registration), you are liable for any accident that occurs while the vehicle is being used with your permission. If you want to avoid being sued, you should make sure that the car is solely in your son's name and that you are not listed anywhere as an owner.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 2/20/2012
Patrick M Lamar Attorney
Patrick M Lamar Attorney | Patrick M Lamar
If you are this concerned about your son's driving maybe he should wait to have a car until he can afford it. Otherwise, your son will generally be liable for his own mistakes. However, there can be a claim for negligent entrustment which in some locations is considered a separate claim.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 8/11/2011
Dunnings Law Firm
Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
If the title of the car is in your name, you will be liable. You might want to get an umbrella policy under your home insurance to cover or else put the title of the vehicle in your kid's name.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/11/2011
    The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC
    The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC | Stephen R. Chesley
    If you are the owner of the car you are liable for any acts of the driver. If you own it you will be on the registration. Depending upon the age of your child, you may have difficulty obtaining insurance on his name only. If the car is in his name, the premiums will be high.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C.
    Andrew T. Velonis, P.C. | Andrew Velonis
    If you are on the title, you are an owner. Since he will be driving it "with your permission" so to speak, you will be liable if he causes an accident. Consider the odds: 1) If he causes an accident; 2) If the insurance company doesn't cover damages fully; 3) If the injured party's lawer decides to pursue you personally (which usually does not happen), then you will be facing financial loss. If it is worth your peace of mind to avoid that risk, you can get additional insurance.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    No. I f you own the car and permit your son to operate it you are liable. Your insurance should cover you. That is what insurance is for.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator
    Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator | Bernard Huff
    If your son is still a minor, you may be liable if he causes an accident. Get adequate insurance coverage to protect both, your son and you.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    If your name is on the title you can be sued.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    David F. Stoddard
    David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
    It depends on whether your son lives with you. There is a legal rule called the Family Purpose Doctrine that states that if you provide a vehicle for a household member for the convenience of the household, you are liable for any damages caused by the household member while operating the vehicle. If your son has his own residence, I do not believe this doctrine would apply. You might be held liable for negligent entrustment of a vehicle if you help him get a vehicle knowing he is unfit to drive. This would be very unusual and I'm not sure that financing a car, even if you knew he was unfit to drive would constitute "entrustment". If your son lives you and the Family purpose doctrine would apply, and you are worried about damages that insurance would not cover, you may want to review your insurance coverage . The best of us (you included) might cause an accident that causes substantial damage. You need to protect yourself against an accident that you cause that exceeds your insurance coverage. I would suggest that you have enough insurance to cover the value of any real estate, bank accounts and stocks that you own. If you own none of these things, minimum limits should cover you ( a judgment that exceeds your insurance cannot collect from you if you own nothing). You may want insurance that exceeds your net worth by as much as $50,000ittle because the judgment will be there for 10 years. Thus if you have a house with no equity now, you might want $50,000 in insurance because you might have that much equity within 10 years. Once you have enough insurance, you need not worry about household member's liability because you have adequate insurance. If you want to keep minimum limits, but avoid liability for your household member's liability, this is an illusion. Even if you can avoid liability for your son's actions, if you are underinsured, you'll have problems if you cause a wreck. Regardless of the options you choose about liability insurance, get as much "underinsured insured" coverage as you can purchase. This protects you and your household in the event that you are injured by a driver who has inadequate insurance to cover your damages.
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Law Office of Ronald Arthur Lowry
    Law Office of Ronald Arthur Lowry | Ronald Arthur Lowry
    Under Georgia law there is a doctrine known as the Family Purpose Automobile Doctrine. That doctrine states that if a child is operating a motor vehicle owned and maintained by a parent/head of household with permission and the child negligently drives the vehicle in such a way that another person or entity is damaged, the parent is vicariously liable for the conduct of the child. The theory is similar to the employer-employee relationship the theory being that the child is acting on behalf of the parent by driving himself instead of the parent having to drive the child places. All of those items discussed above have to be present, however. If the child actually owns the car himself, maintains the car, provides insurance for the car, etc. then the parent is not the true owner and the doctrine does not apply. Sometimes this can be a close question, though. The issue is very fact dependent and appeals court judges write opinions disagreeing with each other about this sort of thing. Why don't you just co-sign the loan and have all the ownership paperwork in your son's name? Plus be responsible and make sure that he has plenty of liability insurance and that you also have plenty of liability insurance on your autos as well.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Judnich Law Office
    Judnich Law Office | Martin W. Judnich
    In Montana, it depends on how old your child is. If they are under 18, there is a chance you could be liable. Not a great chance though. All the more reason to get good insurance for your children that are driving. With adequate insurance, you are insuring yourself as well. It does not matter who's name is on the title of the vehicle, nor the registration.
    Answer Applies to: Montana
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Oliver Law Office
    Oliver Law Office | Jami Oliver
    In general, whether or not your name is on the registration is up to you and your son. Legally, you can only be held liable for your son's negligence if you were also negligent (say, in letting him use the car when you know he had his license revoked, or perhaps is not capable of driving). You can also be held responsible for the actions of a minor. The most important issue is to make sure he has full coverage, including liability, property damage, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and UIM/UM property damage coverage. You also need to make sure he and his car are listed on the declarations page if he is a resident of your household, as there are some exclusions in most insurance policies for household residents where the car is not listed.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    A. Daniel Woska & Associates, P.C.
    A. Daniel Woska & Associates, P.C. | Dan Woska
    The age of your son is an important fact I am missing. If your son is 18 or under, you may be held liable for his negligence. Even if your child turns 18, if you are the title holder to the vehicle you are telling the world "I own this car and I have no concerns if it is entrusted to my child. If your child, whether 18 or 28, can still be involved in an accident and you may be named as the title holder to the vehicle and depending on the facts, could be liable as well. The safest route is to avoid holding the title to any vehicle to be driven by a third party.
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates
    Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates | Lyle B. Masnikoff
    If you are part owner than u will always be liable for accident
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink
    Law Offices of Steven A. Fink | Steven Alan Fink
    The owner of a vehicle is liable for up to $15,000 if someone else driving. If you can be on loan but not on title you should not be liable for any accidents. Of course, you will be responsible for payments if your son defaults and you will not be able to take possession of the vehicle.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC
    Law Office of Travis Prestwich, PC | Travis Prestwich
    If you assist in helping your child in a vehicle, you can be held responsible for your child's actions. Whether it would happen practically speaking would pain on your child's driving history, whether he or she should be operating a vehicle, etc. Generally speaking, if your trial has a good driving record, a valid license, etc., and the vehicle is insured, then it is less likely a claim would be brought against you directly. However, whenever there is an accident that involves serious injuries and/or losses, it is common to explore every possible resource for compensation. It is the injury attorney's duty to his client to do so.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 8/11/2011
    David Hoines Law
    David Hoines Law | David Hoines
    if your name is on title, you are also resposible see if finance company will sell to son with you as guarantor and your name not on title
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/11/2011
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