teen driving a car

Ask the Attorney: I Was in an Accident With a Minor. Can I Bring a Suit Against Their Parents for My Injuries?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

If you were in a car accident with someone who was younger than 18 years at the time of the collision, the issue of liability can be quite murky. This blog will try to unravel some of those threads and pull apart the knots in “Ask the Attorney: I was in an accident with a minor. Can I bring a suit against their parents for my injuries?”

You will want to talk to a Los Angeles car accident attorney about your specific situation because these cases can turn on the facts, and this blog covers the general law.

Negligence and Car Accidents

The first issue you will need to sort out is whose negligence caused the collision. Sometimes, accidents simply happen, without anyone being negligent. When no one violates a traffic rule or behaves carelessly, no one is liable.

Some people assume that a young driver is careless, but the law sees all drivers as equals. If you were injured in a collision with a minor, you will need to prove, with facts and evidence, what the young driver did that was negligent and caused the crash.

For the rest of this blog, we will assume that the under-18 driver was careless and that their negligence caused the collision.

Minors and the Law

A person who is under the age of 18 usually cannot file a lawsuit against anyone. They would have to get the court to appoint a “next friend” to act on behalf of the minor by filing and going forward with the lawsuit on behalf of the minor.

Similarly, typically, a minor cannot get sued, even for the consequences of their actions. You would need to file a lawsuit against the parents or guardians of the minor. Since they cannot get sued directly, does California law hold minors legally accountable for the harm they do to others through negligence?

Liability for the Negligence of Minors in California

The court will decide which of these three categories is appropriate in a particular case:

  • Parental neglect. Let’s say that a parent lets an 8-year-old child drive the car down the driveway every now and then. One night, while the parent was out socializing, the child took the car keys off of the kitchen table and took the car for a joyride, injuring a pedestrian with the vehicle. The court might find the parent liable for the walker’s injuries and other losses because of parental neglect.
  • Negligence on the part of the young driver. This scenario involves a licensed teenage driver who made a mistake that caused a crash. The court will evaluate the negligence of the young driver’s actions through the lens of the minor’s age and life experiences. Sometimes, the courts find the parents or guardians liable, and sometimes, they do not.
  • Willful misconduct. When a minor intentionally harms someone, for example, by running someone down with a car on purpose, the parents or guardians can be held accountable to the person who got injured.

A Los Angeles personal injury attorney could help you seek compensation for your losses if you got injured in a car accident caused by a minor driver. For help with your case reach out to our office today.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.