There is that one special day all teenagers look forward to and all parents dread: the day they turn 16 and apply for their driver’s license. By this time most parents have already decided if their teen will have their own car or if they will be sharing a vehicle with the rest of the family. The majority of parents also decide to go ahead and include the new driver on their existing automobile insurance policy. In some situations, the teen may obtain their own car insurance, even though the cost is generally prohibitive. Whether the teen is added to a family policy or acquires their own, it is of upmost importance the newly licensed driver is never without proper coverage.
At this age teens believe they are invincible so things like following the posted speed limit, wearing a seatbelt and not texting and driving are often disregarded. In fact, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety has determined teenage drivers cause 15 percent of all our state’s automobile deaths. Additional statistics compiled by the same department indicate every hour and a half an automobile accident involving a teen driver occurs, resulting in a fatality or serious injury.
The State of South Carolina has two different parental responsibility statutes on the books. One is parental liability when their child maliciously or willfully causes personal injury, vandalism or theft. The other involves automobile accidents. The parent or legal guardian who signed their teen driver’s license application is “jointly and severally liable for the motor vehicle negligence of the minor, unless there is a policy of insurance in place which provides required coverage.” But that doesn’t mean the injured party can’t sue the responsible adult for the actions of their minor child for damages over and above insurance limits. Minors under the age of 18 normally don’t own property or have measurable assets, therefore making sense that the responsible parent ends up being held liable.
South Carolina also follows the family purpose doctrine which basically states the registered owner of an automobile is responsible for damages to anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident when the auto is driven by a member of the family and is used for general family purposes. This doctrine was created specifically for injured parties to recoup damages from the head of household or the responsible adult when involved in an automobile accident with an at-fault underage motorist. The doctrine is applicable as long as the minor driver was given permission to use the car for a family purpose such as, but not limited to: running household errands including grocery shopping, getting take out for dinner and/or picking up another household member from work or other siblings from school.
Have you or a family member been involved in a car accident where the other driver was both at fault and a minor? Please reach out to the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm today at 864-232-4273 and let us help ensure you get maximum satisfaction under the law.
Dan Pruitt is a Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from University of Georgia, and has been practicing law for 25 years. Dan Pruitt believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.