A car accident can leave you injured, lead to extensive medical bills, and require a lengthy recovery period. If your accident involves a teenage driver, you may face complex issues regarding liability and compensation. If the teenage driver is a minor and at fault for the accident, you may file a claim against their parents’ insurance company to cover your accident-related damages.

If a teenage driver has their own auto insurance policy, their parents or legal guardians who signed their permit or documentation may still share in the liability in the accident. A lawyer can investigate the accident to establish the percentage of fault that should be attributed to the teenage driver and their parents‌.

When Can Parents Be Liable for a Car Accident Caused by Their Minor Teenager?

South Carolina holds parents liable for injuries and property damage caused by their minor children, especially in car accidents. If the auto insurance doesn’t cover all your damages, the parent or guardian who signs a minor driver’s license application is responsible for damages the underage driver caused.

If the minor lives with their parents or guardians and the actions were malicious or willful, you may sue the parents or guardians for damages in a civil lawsuit. Parental liability is usually capped at $5,000 except under South Carolina’s family purposes doctrine.

What is South Carolina’s family purposes doctrine?

If the parents’ behavior led to their minor children causing damage or injury, they can be liable for damages beyond the parental liability cap of $5,000. This liability arises from the family purpose doctrine. Under this doctrine, a family head who provides a family car may be liable for $5,000 in damages if they allow a child to use it unsupervised.

A South Carolina Supreme Court decision states that if the parent is the vehicle owner, the court must determine if the family drove the car for general use and convenience. If a minor child did not use the vehicle for its general use and convenience, the parent wouldn’t be liable for the accident as there is no relationship between the parent and the minor child.

The complexities of South Carolina’s laws around minor drivers and their parents in accidents require the advice of legal counsel. Having your legal matter investigated by one of the South Carolina auto accident lawyers at the Joye Law Firm can help you determine your legal options after your accident.

Investigating a Car Accident Involving a Teenage Driver

When your lawyer investigates the accident, they look for evidence that proves the teen driver was at fault for the accident. They may take the following steps in their investigation:

Gather accident evidence:

A lawyer can assess liability using photos of skid marks, debris from the vehicles involved, and guardrail damage. Cellphone footage, surveillance cameras, and traffic cameras may also help establish liability.

Look at cellphone records:

Teen drivers cause more fatal crashes than any other age group when they are distracted while driving. A teenage driver’s phone records may show whether they were distracted when they hit you or a loved one.

Review the police report:

If a police officer was on the scene, they should have completed a police report. Your lawyer can read through the police report to determine liability and build your case. The police report contains details about the time, date, location, and weather conditions during the accident.

It also includes a diagram of the accident, statements from witnesses, and the police officer’s opinion on who is responsible.

Seeking Financial Compensation After an Accident with a Teen Driver

Once your lawyer determines the teenage driver shares fault in the accident, you can pursue different avenues of financial compensation. These involve the following options:

Uninsured/underinsured insurance claim:

If a teenage driver only had a minimum car insurance policy or did not have one at all, you may file an uninsured/underinsured insurance claim with your insurance company. This type of claim can be filed if your damages exceed the insurance coverage of the teenage driver.

Third-party liability claim:

The state’s dram shop laws can hold vendors liable for offering alcohol to underage drivers. It is possible to hold social hosts responsible for serving underage drivers, and employers may also be liable for the actions of their teen drivers in some cases.

A Car Accident Attorney Can Help If You Have Been in a Collision with a Teenager

If you suffer injuries due to an accident with a teenage driver in South Carolina, contact Joye Law Firm as soon as possible. We can help you determine the best legal course of action for receiving compensation, including whether to make a claim against the driver’s insurance or their parents’ policy.

The lawyers at Joye Law Firm will also examine the details of your case to determine liability in the accident. For a free consultation, call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our lawyers.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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