Liability for Underage Drivers in San Jose Car Accidents

San Jose car accident lawyerTeenagers are notorious for bad driving and for the number of auto accidents they cause. Unfortunately, they are usually not in a financial position to compensate the other drivers and pedestrians they harm in such accidents.

In California, there are two statutes addressing a parent or guardian’s liability for harms caused by a minor child’s driving. One assigns liability to parents who sign a child’s driver’s license application, and the other makes parents who give a minor permission to drive liable for damages the child causes.

Signs Driver’s License Application

The first statute makes a parent or guardian liable for a minor child’s accidents when the parent has signed the minor’s application for a driver’s license. In California, a parent or guardian must sign a minor’s application for a driver’s license.

Then, if that minor, by a negligent or wrongful act or omission while driving, causes an accident and injures another person or another’s property, the parent is jointly and severally liable, along with the child, for any resultant damages. Joint and several liability means that the injured party can collect damages from the parent or the child or from both.

Gives Permission to Drive

The other statute assigns liability to any parent or guardian or any other person who has custody of the child and gives the child permission to drive a vehicle. The parent and minor are jointly and severally liable for all for all foreseeable damages caused by the minor driver, whether or not the child is a licensed driver.

The parent’s permission can be either express or implied. This means that the parent does not have to verbally tell the minor “you can drive the car.” If, for example, the parent and child have an understanding that the child is generally allowed to drive to school, but the parent does not explicitly give permission that day, that is sufficient for the parent to be held liable for the minor’s accidents.

The parent is liable for harms resulting from the minor’s negligence or wrongful act or omission. This means that the minor does not have to have intended harm, or to have caused an accident willfully. Negligence or carelessness is enough.


Under both statutes, the parent or guardian is liable for any damages caused by the minor’s driving. This includes both economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include compensation for things like medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, mental or emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.

Unfortunately, many people every year are injured by the carelessness of teen drivers. If you have been injured and think that your injuries were caused by someone else, including a teenage driver, please contact a skilled San Jose car accident lawyer at Janoff Law. Call 408-286-2300 for a free consultation today.



Janoff Law,
A Professional Corporation
1570 The Alameda, Suite 221, San Jose, CA 95126 408-286-2300
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