What to Do When Your Child Gets into a Car Accident
As a parent, nothing is more terrifying than receiving a phone call saying your child has been in a car accident. Your immediate concern is rushing to the hospital; but once the initial panic subsides, you may have to confront some complex legal issues. In this article, our Baltimore car accident attorneys will explain whether a parent can be held liable for their child’s crash or collision, and discuss how to begin the process of seeking compensation for your son or daughter’s injuries.
Can I Be Held Liable for My Child’s Automotive Accident?
Civil liability means non-criminal legal responsibility for an accident which causes an injury or wrongful death. Parental liability is a mother or father’s liability for their minor child’s actions. Each state has different parental liability laws. The information discussed in this article pertains specifically to Maryland, so please be sure to check your own state’s laws for accidents occurring elsewhere.
Maryland courts generally do not hold parents or legal guardians liable for the careless or negligent actions of their minor children. Even if the accident was caused by willful misconduct on the part of the minor, such as intentionally running a red light, the parent or guardian is typically not liable unless the act also results in criminal charges against the minor, such as leaving the scene of an accident (“hit and run”), in which case the parent may be ordered to pay up to $10,000 in criminal restitution. (Please note that Whitney, LLP is a personal injury law firm handling civil matters only. If your child has been charged with a crime in connection to a car accident, we advise you to seek assistance from a criminal defense lawyer immediately.)
Circling back to civil liability, there is an important exception to the general rule that parents are not responsible for their children’s accidents. It is called negligent entrustment, which means entrusting a vehicle to a child when the parent knows or has reason to know that the child doesn’t have a driver’s license, is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, or is otherwise unfit to drive safely.
Can My Son or Daughter Get Compensated if They Were Injured in the Crash?
When a person is hurt in a car accident, and is dissatisfied with the amount being offered by the insurance company – which is often far lower than what’s needed to adequately treat the victim’s injuries – he or she may wish to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit, depending on the circumstances. An attorney can help you understand the pros and cons of different methods of seeking compensation after an accident occurs.
Maryland is what’s called a fault state, which means that in order to be awarded compensation by a jury, the accident victim (plaintiff) must be able to prove that the other driver (defendant) was at fault for causing the crash or collision. In order to prove the other defendant was at fault, the plaintiff needs to show that (1) the defendant breached their “duty of care” by violating traffic laws or driving unsafely, (2) the accident was caused by the defendant’s actions (such as speeding, tailgating, or running a red light), and (3) the victim suffered an injury and/or financial loss as a result.
Even at low speeds, automotive accidents have the potential to cause serious physical injuries. Some common examples include:
- Broken Bones
- Facial Injuries
- Scarring and Disfigurement
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Whiplash (Neck Injuries)
The defendant may attempt to evade liability by arguing that the plaintiff was partially at fault for the accident, because Maryland’s pure contributory negligence doctrine prevents plaintiffs from recovering compensation if they were even 1% at fault for an accident. However, with assistance from a skilled and experienced attorney, the plaintiff may be able to successfully rebut such arguments.
For instance, the defendant might try to place blame on the plaintiff by arguing that the plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt when the accident occurred. Not only do Maryland’s laws state that failure to wear a seat belt is not evidence of contributory negligence, they also prohibit attorneys from even referencing such details in court. The relevant statute is Maryland Transportation Code § 22-412.3.
If your child was injured in an automotive accident, resist the temptation to immediately accept the first offer the insurance company makes. Insurance companies are in the business to make a profit, and frankly, these initial offers are almost always too low. Insurance companies simply do not operate with claimants’ best financial interests in mind, which is why it is always prudent to get legal advice from an attorney following an accident, even if you aren’t quite sure whether your family wishes to proceed with a lawsuit.
If your son or daughter was injured in a car accident in Maryland, your family may be entitled to compensation to help with your pain, suffering, medical bills, and other financial losses. To learn more about your child’s legal options in a free, private consultation, call the personal injury attorneys of Whitney LLP right away at (410) 583-8000. We have years of experience representing injury victims throughout the state.