Teen drivers in Florida are consistently known as one of the most accident-prone age groups on the roads, as revealed by data from the Florida Teen Driver Fact Sheet. In the year 2020 alone, teen drivers were involved in over one million car accidents nationwide, leading to approximately 4,405 fatalities and a staggering 319,335 that resulted in serious injuries. Florida alone has over 800,000 registered teen drivers aged 15 to 19, and reported 84,052 crashes resulting in 350 fatalities and 1,935 serious injuries during 2020. Alarmingly, the statistics show that while nationally, drivers aged 16 and 17 bear the highest crash rates, in Florida, it’s the slightly older teens aged 18 and 19 who are predisposed to being involved in car accidents.

Many teenagers hold minimum wage jobs that serve as a means to save for college or participate in activities and hobbies. However, the financial constraints that come with such employment become apparent when they are found to be responsible for a car accident. Often, teenagers lack the financial resources to cover the expenses associated with injuries or damages sustained in Florida car accidents, especially when the costs exceed what their insurance policies can provide. When victims of the accidents need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation for property damage or injuries, they may find themselves at a dead end. However, the family purpose doctrine gives victims of car accidents caused by teens a means to seek compensation from their parents, especially if the teen is driving their parent’s car.

What Is The Family Purpose Doctrine?

The Family Purpose Doctrine, also known as the family car doctrine, establishes the legal responsibility of vehicle owners for damages resulting from the actions of their family members, typically teens, when they utilize their vehicle. Under the family car doctrine, owners are required to ensure that their family members practice responsible driving of the family vehicle or not allow them to use it. Particularly important in cases involving teens under the age of 18, parents are typically held accountable for property damage or injuries sustained in car accidents that their children are liable for in Florida.

Section 322.09(b) of Florida law further describes and solidifies the family purpose doctrine by attributing the liability of negligent driving by a minor to the individual who signed their application for a driver’s permit or license. This is typically done by the party responsible for the minor, and often falls on the child’s parents. As such, the Family Purpose Doctrine serves as a legal framework to assign liability and ensure accountability in cases where family members, especially teens, are involved in car accidents while operating a vehicle owned by another family member.

Why Does Florida Make Parent’s Responsible For Teen Car Accidents?

Florida law allows victims of car accidents, when the accident was the result of negligence by their teens, to sue the parents. This is primarily due to the legal principles surrounding ownership and authority. While parents are typically not held liable for their child’s negligence unless the child was acting under parental authority, the ownership and registration of the vehicle are an important factor in car accident cases. Minor drivers cannot legally own or register a car in their name until they reach the age of 18 in Florida. Therefore, most teens drive vehicles owned and registered by their parents or legal guardians, who typically purchase and maintain insurance policies for these vehicles. This typically means that when a teen is involved in a car accident, the responsibility for any resulting damages falls upon the parents or guardians due to their ownership and authority over the vehicle. In turn, this makes parents or guardians legally liable for the consequences of their child’s actions on the road.

Can I Sue A Minor For Car Accident Damages In Florida?

If a minor is determined to be liable for a car accident and their insurance coverage falls short in compensating for property damage and injuries, victims may pursue legal action against them. If a victim chooses to file a personal injury claim against the minor driver, they should also name the minor’s parents in the suit. Any settlement provided in the personal injury lawsuit will have to be signed by the minor’s parents or guardians.

However, relying solely on pursuing a Florida personal injury claim against a minor might not guarantee full compensation for the losses incurred. Instead, seeking compensation through your own underinsured/uninsured motorist insurance could be a more effective solution to obtain the compensation deserved. Our team at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk understands the complexities of cases involving negligent teen drivers, and can provide legal guidance through the process. If you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced Florida car accident lawyers near you. We’re here to support you and assist you in pursuing the compensation you rightfully deserve.

How Do I Know If A Parent Can Be Held Liable For A Teen Car Accident?

Determining whether a parent is liable for a Florida car accident caused by a teen can be a complex process, especially when looking at certain factors such as ownership, insurance coverage, and legal responsibilities. Contacting our team of nearby Florida car accident attorneys at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk is your best bet for guidance through the legal process as well as experienced representation tailored to your specific situation. We have over 35 years of legal experience and knowledge needed to navigate the intricacies of Florida law and advocate for your rights effectively. Contact us today!