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Parental Liability in Arizona: What To Do if Your Child Crashes Your Car

April 30, 2023 Legal Team

As a parent, it is crucial to understand parental obligations regarding legal issues. Over the past decade, the liability of parents in Arizona auto accidents involving minors has been in the spotlight. When a minor causes an accident, parents who own the car are almost certainly liable and can face a personal injury lawsuit.

What To Do if Your Child Crashes Your Car

Recent Court Case – Young v. Beck

In a recent case, Jason Beck, a teenager, took his parents’ automobile without express permission, and crashed into another driver, causing serious injury. The plaintiff initiated legal proceedings against the parents of the minor, contending that they bore liability for the harm caused. 

The parents contended that they did not grant their child explicit authorization to operate the vehicle on that particular evening, and thus should not be held responsible for the collision. As the case unfolded, it brought up crucial questions surrounding parental responsibility and the limits of liability.

The Family Purpose Doctrine

The court ruled that the parents were in fact liable for injuries caused by their teenage child. They based this ruling on the family purpose doctrine, which implies that the head of a household is responsible for the actions of their family members who use the family car.

Express or Implied Consent

For the family purpose doctrine to apply, there must be express or implied consent from the vehicle owner. To establish parental liability for Jason Beck’s accident, it must be demonstrated that his parents authorized him to operate the vehicle on the relevant evening, either through express or implied consent.

Ultimately, the court found implied consent, based on Beck’s parent’s decision to furnish a car for the pleasure and convenience of family members.

It is worth noting that the family purpose doctrine does not require parental permission for every time someone decides to drive. If the driver is a household member and is driving the family car, then the head of the household may be responsible for any damages caused by the accident.

The Arizona courts have stated that parental liability for the actions of their minor children in auto accidents is part of the established common law in Arizona. The court acknowledged that policy arguments could be made either way but ultimately affirmed the legal principle of parental liability in these situations.

Potential Damages

Parents could be held liable for different types of damages in a teen driving accident. These include property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The costs can add up rapidly, particularly if there are lasting injuries arising from the incident. 

Contact a Lawyer Right Away

No parent ever wants to have to deal with their child crashing their car. But if it does happen, it’s essential to be prepared and handle the situation in the best way possible. A Phoenix car accident lawyer can help make sure you and your child take the appropriate steps to defend yourself.

The recent case involving a teen taking his parents’ car without permission has caused concerns among parents about their liability. However, the laws surrounding this issue are designed to ensure that injured parties receive adequate compensation and that parents take reasonable actions to prevent accidents.

If you need help after a car accident involving a teenager, contact us to schedule a free consultation.