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Negligent entrustment applied to accidents caused by teen drivers

Los Angeles residents are often left facing inordinate expenses following car accidents. They may be the result of medical expenses, repair costs, or a combination of both. Oftentimes, auto insurance coverage is not sufficient to cover the full amount of those expenses. Thus, people in such situations may be left with little choice but to seek compensation from the drivers responsible for their accidents. Yet what if those drivers are teens? 

Statistics suggests that to be a strong likelihood. In fact, information shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that drivers between the ages of 16-19 have a higher accident risk rate than any other demographic. The trouble is that teens often lack the financial resources to offer any sort of compensation to cover an accident victim's expenses. This then prompts the question of whether one can hold a teen's parents liable for accidents he or she causes. 

One may indeed assign liability to a teen's parents in such a situation provided his or her case meets the standard of negligent entrustment. This legal doctrine holds those who allowed reckless or irresponsible drivers to use their vehicles accountable. However, per California's Civil Jury Instructions, the following elements must be proven to apply it to a teenage car accident case: 

  • The teen was negligent in using the vehicle
  • The teen had the vehicle with his or her parents' permission
  • The parents knew (or should have known) of the teen's poor driving habits
  • The parents allowed the teen access to the vehicle anyway
  • The teen's poor driving habits were a substantial factor in causing an accident

It should be noted that cases where a teen took a vehicle without his or her parents' permission would not fall under negligent entrustment. 

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