Can Parents Be Liable for a Car Crash if Their Teen Was Driving?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on August 26, 2020 in Car Accidents
Updated on April 24, 2024

new teen driverIt is well known that teen drivers, with little experience, training or acquired skills combined with many and varied distractions, have an increased risk for having a car crash. If your teen causes an accident, can you be held liable for the injuries and damages to the other party? The short answer is yes.

PKSD Law discusses important liability issues that parents accept when their teen gets behind the wheel, as well as the impact of a pilot program recently introduced by the Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation (WisDOT) to waive the road test for new teen drivers amid the pandemic.

If you or your teen are involved in a car crash, contact our firm anytime, day or night, to learn about how our qualified lawyers may be able to provide legal help. Our initial consultations cost you no money, and there is no obligation to hire our services.

Parental Liability and Minor Driving Laws in Wisconsin

Unfortunately car crashes happen too often for young drivers with too few hours behind the wheel. If you are the parent of a teen who is learning to drive, you are required to sponsor your child’s application for a learner’s permit under Wisconsin state law. When you become your teen’s sponsor, you are agreeing to accept a “joint and several” liability. This means that you and your teen share liability for any accidents where your teen was determined to be at-fault.

In a situation where your teen causes a car crash, your personal financial assets can be at risk. The injured party can pursue compensation for injuries and other losses up to $300,000 or the limits of your liability insurance, whichever amount is greater.

Sponsors of teen drivers (typically one or more parents) need to maintain at least the minimum amount of car insurance required under state law. Some parents also choose to add their teens to their existing insurance policy. In the event of an accident, the liability portion of your insurance (unlike other portions of your policy) will follow the driver, not the car.

This sponsorship with joint and several liability is only required until your son or daughter’s 18th birthday. After that, teens can get a car and insurance policy in their own name. At that point, if your teen has an accident, plaintiff’s may only pursue compensation through your teen’s insurance and/or assets.

Wisconsin’s Road Test Waiver Amid Pandemic

Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation (WisDOT), like most government agencies, has been looking for ways to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. On May 11, 2020, WisDOT launched a pilot program to limit DMV visits, and it specifically impacts the approximately 10,000 new teen drivers, ages 16 to 17 years, in the state. The program, which requires teens to complete some driver training, is not mandatory. It still requires behind-the-wheel training, but completely waives the road test requirement.

WisDOT requirements to obtain a probationary license under this new program includes:

  • Obtaining a learner’s permit and keeping it violation-free for six months
  • Completing driver’s education classes
  • Completing behind-the-wheel training with a licensed instructor
  • Obtaining a sponsor for their driving license application (typically one or more parents)
  • Completing an additional 30 hours of practice driving

Even with mandatory training, teens are still at higher risk for a car crash, due to lack of experience and immaturity. The most recent statistics published by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in 2016 reported that 43 teens in the state between the ages of 16 -19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes.

How Parents Can Encourage Safer Driving

There are many steps that parents can take to help encourage responsible driving behavior in their teens, including:

  • Having an interactive conversation with your teen about safe driving habits
  • Getting out with your teen and giving them practice driving in various conditions, and often
  • Setting rules limiting use of technology (cellphones, radios, and other distractions)
  • Limiting the number of passengers
  • Exhibiting safe driving behavior when you are behind the wheel. Your teen will be more likely to mimic what they see you do than what they may hear you say

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides some additional safety recommendations for parents of new teen drivers.

How an Attorney May Be Able to Provide Legal Help

If you are injured in an accident caused by a teen driver, our firm may be help you to pursue compensation for your injuries and other losses. Even if your teen contributed to a crash, our Milwaukee car accident lawyers are ready to help ensure he or she is not assigned more than his or her fair share of liability.

If we represent you, there are no upfront costs, and we do not collect our attorney fees unless we first obtain compensation on your behalf. Call for your free, no-obligation consultation anytime, day or night.

PKSD Law. FREE Consultation. No upfront costs. Call: 414-333-3333

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