Parental Responsibility for a Child’s Car Accident

Posted on behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak

on June 26, 2019

. Updated on March 23, 2022


teenager with hand on steering wheelWe all know teenage drivers can be careless. They often cause accidents due to distracted driving or just a lack of experience behind the wheel. When this happens, their parents could be held financially responsible because of Indiana’s parental responsibility laws.

If you are a parent of a minor, it is important you understand how Indiana laws may make you liable for your child’s negligent actions while they are behind the wheel. Below, the South Bend auto accident attorneys from Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak explain the legal responsibilities parents have in Indiana when a minor child is at fault for a car accident.

Parental Responsibility Laws in Indiana

The parental responsibility laws in Indiana are strict. These laws protect drivers who are involved in accidents caused by minor drivers, holding the parents financially accountable. According to Indiana Code Section 9-24-9-4, the parent who signs the driver’s license application of a minor can and will be held liable for all of the damage caused by that minor in an accident.

When it comes to property damage and personal injury, the parent of the minor is responsible for $5,000 worth of claims in each category, according to Indiana Code Section 34-31-4-1. The parent liable for the damages and cost of the injury is the custodial parent of the minor motorist who lives with the child.

Another section of the Indiana code involves parental responsibility for gang activity related to the operation of a motor vehicle. According to Indiana code section 34-31-4-2, any parent who fails to take reasonable action in preventing his or her child from partaking in gang activity will be held liable for all of the damage the child causes.

As in most states, the age of adulthood in Indiana is 18, so a parent can only be held responsible for the actions of a child who is under the age of 18.

Responsibility for Property Damage and Bodily Harm

The requirements for a parent to be held liable for damage or bodily harm caused by a minor child include the following:

  • The minor child is in the custody of the guardian or parent
  • The child is still living with the guardian or parent

There are restrictions on the condition of liability stemming from a car accident caused by a minor driver and they include the following:

  • The harm to the victim must have been caused intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by the minor child
  • The limit on the amount of liability the parent or guardian will be responsible for is $5,000 in actual damages

Actual damages are defined as those supported by an invoice, bill, receipt or other document. This means that the pain and suffering of the victim will not be covered by the parent or guardian of the child who caused the accident.

The adult who signs the application for the minor’s driver’s license can remove himself or herself from this responsibility by submitting a written request. When the request is approved, the parent is removed from all liability and the driver’s license or permit of the minor driver is suspended immediately. The parent or guardian is also relieved of this responsibility when the driver reaches the age of 18.

Statistics on Minor Drivers

Minors behind the wheel are some of the most dangerous drivers on the roads of Indiana and across the country. Aside from being inexperienced, minors behind the wheel are more susceptible to being distracted due to the presence of their mobile phones, tablets, passengers, music, GPS and other items in the car with them.

Below are some eye-opening statistics about minor drivers:

  • Within the first year of driving, one in five 16-year-olds will have an accident
  • In 2010, 33 percent of deaths among 13 to 19-year-olds happened in car crashes
  • 56 percent of teens have admitted that they talk on the phone while they are driving
  • Driver death rates increase between ages 16 and 17 with each added passenger in their vehicle
  • The crash rates for 16-year-old drivers are higher than any other age group

Contact an Experienced Attorney Today

Have you been injured in a car accident caused by a minor driver?

Speak to the trusted and experienced attorneys from the office of Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak to discuss the accident, your injuries and the damage to your property. You pay zero fees unless you receive compensation for your injuries.

Contact our office in South Bend at (844) 678-1800 to schedule a free consultation.

Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak

Serious Attorneys for Serious Cases