Who May Be Liable for a Crash Caused by a Teenage Driver?

Father teaching his teenaged son to driveNegligent drivers can be held liable for auto accidents, but when the driver is a teenager, his or her parents may be held responsible. Even when a teenager is behind the wheel, the car is probably listed on the parent’s insurance policy.

Below, our Sacramento-based car accident lawyers discuss liability for crashes caused by teenage drivers. If you were injured in a crash involving a teenage driver, give us a call to discuss your claim. We are ready to help pursue compensation that may be available.


State law addresses financial liability for parents whose children cause injuries, damage to property or death. Parents may be held civilly responsible, up to a certain dollar amount, for their child’s willful misconduct, such as graffiti or fighting. However, they might not be held liable for an unintentional act, such as hurting another person during a sporting event or competition.

Liability for a minor’s actions while behind the wheel of a vehicle is different. The child’s intent does not matter. Because the teen drivers are typically on their parent’s insurance policy, the parent becomes liable for damages. Teenagers usually do not have their own insurance. If a teenager does happen to have his or her own insurance, crash victims would file claims against the teenager’s separate policy, not the parent’s.

Unlike claims governed by California parental responsibility laws, the limits on motor vehicle accident damage coverage are usually the insurance policy limits. If the parent’s policy has $100,000 in liability coverage, the victim could seek up to $100,000.


In California, a parent must sign a driver’s license application for a child under 18. The application says the parent is agreeing to be held liable for any damages the child might cause while operating a motor vehicle.

Once this authorization is signed, it is generally the parent’s responsibility to monitor their child’s driving or prevent the teen from driving without permission. If a parent prohibits a teenager from taking the family vehicle but leaves the keys where the teenager could easily take them and a crash occurs, the parents may still be held liable for the accident because proper care was not taken to prevent the child from driving.

If your accident was caused by a teenager who took his or her parent’s car without permission, you should speak to one of our licensed attorneys today to learn how you may be able to prove liability on behalf of the parents.


To obtain a driver’s license in California, a person must be at least 16 years old and prove that he or she has completed both driver education and training. A person must also show that he or she had a California instruction permit for six months and have a parent or guardian certify that he or she completed 50 hours of supervised driving, including at least 10 hours of nighttime driving.

Once the driving test is completed and passed with three or fewer attempts, a person under 18 years of age is given a provisional driver’s license, which has some restrictions for the first 12 months of driving. Some of the provisions include a curfew between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and a restriction on transporting any passengers under 20 years old unless accompanied by a California-licensed parent or guardian, a California-licensed driver over 25 years of age, or a licensed or certified driving instructor.


Parents are encouraged to teach their children defensive driving techniques and the importance of maintaining vigilance to help avoid a crash. One way to do this is to lead by example, as children will often pick up their parents’ habits. For instance, if you text and drive, there is a higher probability that your teen driver may think it is okay for them to do it.


There are many benefits to working with an experienced attorney from the Arnold Law Firm. Our lawyers have detailed knowledge of the law and have a proven record of recovering compensation for auto accident damages, like medical bills and lost wages.

We offer a free consultation and charge you nothing while we work on your case, so there is no risk to you.

Let us review your claim. Call today: (916) 777-7777