If you have a teenager, you are probably aware that once your teenager turns 15 years old, they can apply for a Learner’s driver license. This means that once your 15 years old passes this test, they are able to drive a vehicle while accompanied by another driver who is over 21 years of age, and that person is in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Parents are probably aware that after 12 months of having a Learner’s driver license, and after meeting a few other criteria, the teenager is then able to apply for a Driver’s license.
What a vast number of parents are unaware of is the liability that comes with a teenage driver under the age of 18. When a teenager under the age of 18 applies for a Driver’s license, the application that is submitted must be signed and verified by the father, mother, or legal guardian; and it must be signed in front of a person authorized to administer an oath. Most people will just see this as part of the application process and are not aware of the liability they just added to themselves.
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By signing the Driver’s license for your teenager who is under the age of 18, you are imputing any negligence of the teenage driver onto yourself. In legal terms, this means that if your teenager causes an accident, you will be jointly and severally liable for any damages that were the result of your teenager’s negligence or willful misconduct. To give an example, you could be at home watching your favorite tv show, and your teenager is out at a high school football game. On your teenager’s way home, after leaving the high school football game, they run a red light and hit another vehicle. The accident is 100% of your teenager’s fault. Despite you being at home and watching tv, you are still liable for all of the damages that are a result of the accident created by your teenager. And this is solely due to the fact that you signed your teenager’s Driver’s license.
There are a couple of ways that parents can protect themselves and limit the liability associated with having a teenage driver. The first way, while it is not the most practical way, is to not allow your teenager to have a Driver’s license until they reach the age of 18. Once your child is 18, and no longer a minor, it is no longer required that a parent or guardian sign the Driver’s license. This means that the parents will no longer be responsible if the teenager causes an accident. Another way to help limit liability is to make sure that you have sufficient amounts of insurance coverage on both you and your teenage driver. The more insurance that is available the better. This will ultimately help you if is there ever is an accident with a lot of damage. Make sure that your teenager is responsible enough to drive on their own. If your teenager causes an accident, you could be stuck with all of the damages.