A Child At College Can Cost Parents in More Ways Than One

by | Oct 16, 2015 | Car Accident

Our Oklahoma city car accident lawyers discuss parental liability in car accidents caused by college students.
For parents and young adults alike, going off to college marks a transition from childhood to adulthood. College is often the first time the young person has been away from home for an extended period of time. The student is responsible for ensuring that he or she makes it to class on time, has clean laundry, gets enough sleep and eats appropriately. But even when a college student is separated from his or her parents by hundreds of miles, there is one item that links parents and their college students: the family car. And unfortunately for parents, their college student’s behavior at college can make the parents potentially liable if the family car is involved in an auto accident in Oklahoma.

Parental Liability – What Your College Student Does with Your Car Impacts You

Many parents send their college students off to school with the a car assuming that their child will use the car responsibly and appropriately. That does not always happen unfortunately. Sometimes college students will lent another student borrow the car without considering the legal consequences of this action. Even if the car remains in the exclusive possession of the student, college students will often drive recklessly or negligently (texting while driving, engaging in speed exhibitions with friends, etc.) and are at a higher risk of being involved in a car accident. When a college student wrecks the family car and causes injury to other individuals, the parents may be responsible.

But My Child Was the One Who Caused the Accident – Why Am I As a Parent Responsible?

The way parents of college students can be held responsible is through the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment, which has been recognized in Oklahoma. Under this doctrine, the owner of a piece of property such as a car who entrusts or gives that property to another person can be held responsible for the damages and injuries caused when the vehicle owner knew or should have known that the young person was reckless or negligent. Because parents often have greater resources than their college students, injury victims are eager to hold the parents responsible where they can do so.

What Can I Do to Minimize My Liability for My Child’s Acts?

Before you send your child off to college with the family car, consider taking action to limit your potential legal liability:
  • Have your college student register the car in his or her name if your child is 18 years or older, legally separating the car from your ownership;
  • Consider having the student obtain his or her own separate insurance policy; and
  • Sit down with your young driver and have appropriate discussions about the risk of lending the family car to a friend and the liability involved.

What If a Loved One or I Have Been Injured by a College Student?

If you or a loved one has been injured by a college student driving a car, contact the Oklahoma City law firm of Burch, George & Germany, P.C for help filing an injury claim. We have helped injury victims in Norman and throughout Oklahoma recover compensation and accident settlements for their injuries and losses. Contact us to discuss your college student car accident case today by calling (405) 213-0674.