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Parental responsibility for teen driving negligence: a look at Kentucky law, P.2

Previously, we looked at the results of a recent AAA study which found that, while teen drivers are particularly prone to becoming involved in distracted driving accidents, their parents are actually just as likely to engaged in distracting behaviors behind the wheel. As we noted, the study highlights the need for parents to provide a good example for their children and to teach them well when it comes to safe driving behaviors.

Aside from the harm that can come to a teen who is given to distracted driving, there is also the liability that teen could face if he or she causes an accident. Like every other driver, teen drivers are obligated to follow the rules of the road and exercise reasonable care. Choosing to use a cell phone while driving, particularly when it violates state distracted driving laws, can translate into civil liability for a teen. 

Not only that, but parents can also potentially face liability in connection with their children’s car accidents. Under Kentucky statute, the negligence of a minor may be imputed to the person who signed the application of the minor to obtain his or her license. The person, typically a parent, can be held jointly and severally liable with the minor for damages caused by the minor’s negligence. A parent can protect himself or herself from potential liability, though, by having the minor deposit a proof of financial responsibility.  

The Kentucky statute also provides that motor vehicle owners who “cause or knowingly permit” a minor to drive a vehicle, and anybody who provides a motor vehicle to a minor, is jointly and severally liable with the minor for damages caused by the teen driver’s negligence.

In addition to this statute, Kentucky also recognizes the “family purpose doctrine,” which is another potential avenue for parents to be held responsible for a teen child’s negligence in driving. We’ll take a look at this topic in our next post.

Source: KRS § 186.590

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