As your children get older, you get to watch them grow and develop into teenagers with all of the joys and fears that follow. One such fear is driving, and the accompanying possibility of a car accident.
And, while a car accident may not happen while they are still living under your roof, a common question Virginia parents ask is, “Who is responsible if my child causes a car accident?”
Title 8 of Virginia Code, Chapter 3, Section 8.01-64
Virginia Code, Section 8.01-64, specifically addresses the liability for the negligence of a minor.
This section makes a distinction between minors under the age of 16 that are permitted to drive under Section 46.2-335 and those that are not. If a minor under 16 is not legally allowed to drive, then anyone that allows them to drive can be held jointly and severally liable for any car accidents the minor causes.
This includes the vehicle owner, if they allowed the minor to drive, or anyone else who gives or furnishes the minor the vehicle.
Section 46.2-335 approved drivers
Section 46.2-335 refers to learner’s permits, fees and certifications required for minors. It sets out standards under which 15-year-olds can receive a learner’s or motorcycle learner’s permit, and the requirements for using those permits and who must be in the vehicle as well, like adults with a driver’s license, etc.
What does it mean?
For parents, if your 15- or 16-year-old child has a driver’s license or permit, and they are in a car accident, generally, you, as a parent, are not legally at fault.
Of course, if you acted negligently yourself – for instance, if you failed to maintain the vehicle or let your child drive the car when you knew they were a danger — then you may have liability.
However, per Virginia law, if your child is appropriately licensed, you do not have liability for their actions.
That’s not to say your insurance carrier won’t jack up your rates. And you could have some liability if you allow your child to drive without insurance.