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Holding parents accountable for a minor child’s car accident, P.1

When it comes to driver safety, it is common sense to most people that teen drivers are at greater risk of getting into accidents than older, more experienced drivers. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the prevalence of speeding, lack of attention and distracted driving among teen drivers, particularly using a cell phone while driving.

Adult drivers, of course, are not immune from speeding, poor attention, distracted driving and other unsafe driving behaviors. In fact, according to a recent AAA study, parents were found to be guilty of poor driving more often than their teens, and this trend has been reported by driving instructors. As can be imagined, teens are going to be at a disadvantage in learning safe driving behaviors if their parents don’t model that behavior. 

Teens, of course, can and should be held responsible for their own actions behind the wheel, but parents should feel a sense of responsibility to set a good example, not only to prevent their teen drivers from becoming involved in an automobile accident, but also to avoid potential liability themselves. Like other states, New York recognizes that parents may be held liable for a minor child’s driving negligence.

Under New York law, it isn’t that parents are always vicariously liable for a child’s negligent actions, but there are certain situations where the law does recognize that a parent may be held legally accountable for a minor child’s behavior. There are several possible scenarios where a parent may be held liable for the negligence of a teen driver. We’ll look at some of these in our next post.


New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 388: Negligence in use of operation of vehicle attributable to owner

45 New York Jurisprudence, Second Edition, Domestic Relations § 565, Dangerous instrumentality entrusted or made accessible to child, Braswell et al., August 2016 Update.

14 New York Practice Series, New York Law of Torts § 9:4, Imputed Negligence and Vicarious Liability, Kreindler et al., August 2016 Update.

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