April 3rd, 2018|
Am I personally liable for my child’s car accident?
As a parent, one of the scariest moments is when your child is gets behind the wheel of a car for the first time. One of the many things that are probably running through your head as they pull out of the driveway is whether you are personally liable if your child causes a car accident. More than likely, you purchased their car and are paying their insurance, so it is a fair question.
Typically, you’re not personally liable for your child’s car accident.
Fortunately, in Indiana, you are not generally personally liable for your child’s car accident. That means if he or she causes damage or injury to another, you will not be required to pay money to the injured party. There is an exception, however. Like many states, Indiana requires parents, guardians, or another responsible adult to sign a minor’s application for a permit or driver’s license. Under Indiana Code, Section 9-24-9-4, the person who signs this application agrees to be jointly liable — along with the minor — for any injuries or damages the minor causes through operation of a motor vehicle. Of course, the adult is also absolved of legal responsibility for the minor’s driving, once the minor turns 18.
Not so quick – negligent entrustment.
There’s a claim in Indiana called “negligent entrustment,” which essentially means that despite knowing your child was incompetent, unfit, and/or a dangerous driver, you let him or her drive anyway. In those situations, you can be held personally liable.
When is my child considered unfit to drive?
For the most part, Indiana courts have limited negligent entrustment claims to situations where your child would be dangerous due to physical conditions that would hamper their ability to drive, such as: intoxication, handicap by blindness, or a physical deformity. Another situation would be allowing your child to drive despite his or her never having been licensed.
Are their limits to what I am liable for?
Under Indiana Code, Section 34-31-4, a parent/guardian will be financially responsible for certain harm to a person, or damage to property, stemming from a minor’s conduct if: the parent or guardian has custody of the minor child, and the child is living with the parent or guardian. There are a couple of important limitations on this liability: the child must have caused the harm knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly, and the parent/guardian will not be liable for more than $5,000 in actual damages. “Actual damages” means that the injured person can’t recover money for non-economic losses like “pain and suffering,” which can ordinarily be a pretty significant component of damages in a personal injury case.
What can you do to protect yourself?
Hopefully, you’ve found this article before your child has caused an accident. If so, here are a few things I would absolutely consider to make sure you’re not liable for your child’s driving:
- Make sure that your child is ready to drive – I get it, driving is considered a right of passage, a way to get some independence. But slow down! Once your child gets qualified for a learner’s permit, take the necessary time to train them in a safe location, such as an empty parking lot. After they are comfortable handling a vehicle, you can then move on to road testing.
- Make sure they know the rules and follow them – Take the necessary time, even after they get their licenses, to ride with your children, answer their questions, and make sure they know the rules before you give them free rein.
- No phones! – Don’t let your child drive while using a phone. Texting and driving is especially dangerous because it incorporates all types of driving distractions: (1) Visual: Takes eyes off the road; (2) Manual: Takes hands off the steering wheel; (3) Cognitive: Takes focus away from safe driving. In just the 5 seconds it takes to send or read a short text message, a person has already zoomed past the length of a football field (traveling at 55 MPH) with minimal attention on the road ahead. Also, stop doing that yourself. Kids live by example. Indiana law specifically states, drivers younger than 18 are banned from texting and cell phone usage. Furthermore, Indiana law states all drivers, regardless of age, are banned from text messaging while driving.
- Take traffic cases seriously – If your child gets a speeding ticket (or other traffic infraction), don’t let it just slide. Remember, small acts of negligence can cause people to die – literally. If they can’t follow the rules, they can’t drive.
- Drinking or Drugs? No Car – forever. Look, I know this goes without saying, but if your child is using illegal substances, they have a lot of issues going forward. One thing, though, is you don’t want to be held liable if they kill someone in a car. Tough love is sometimes necessary.
- GET ENOUGH CAR INSURANCE – Remember, in Indiana, you can protect yourself from personal liability simply by purchasing enough car insurance. Do not rely on your insurance agent telling you that you’re “fully insured.” In Indiana, you can be fully insured with as little as $25,000 in coverage. In serious car accidents, that’s a drop in the bucket. At Fleschner Law, we recommend you purchase $500,000 in both liability and underinsured motorist coverage. For only a couple hundred bucks more a year, you can avoid the stress of losing everything you’ve built by simply having proper insurance.
March 19th, 2018|
A distracted driver ran a red light and smashed into your vehicle. You are injured. Should you sue the driver directly or sue his insurance company?
Often, when we talk with accident victims, they ask us if they need to sue the driver directly or sue the driver’s insurance company. Understandably, this is a perplexing issue for many people. Some accident victims get upset because they want the driver who caused the wreck to personally pay for all of the inconvenience and disruption the driver caused. On the other hand, some accident victims do not want the person who caused the wreck to be personally responsible because the person at fault did not do anything on purpose- it was just an “accident.” So that you understand this process, I will explain the appropriate Indiana insurance law.
Sue the Driver or the Insurance Company?
When you’re in a vehicular collision, normally you talk to both your own insurance company and also the insurance company of the other driver. Even if you are not at fault, we always suggest you inform your insurance company about the wreck. Your insurance policy requires that you cooperate with your insurance company—so you should advise them about the facts of the wreck. In addition, it is important to inform your insurance company of the wreck because, if the other driver does not have liability insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover your claim, you are entitled to file a claim pursuant to the Uninsured/Underinsured provisions of your own insurance policy.
For all practical purposes, you (or your attorney) will not be dealing with the at-fault driver. You will be dealing with his insurance company. If your case cannot be settled and a lawsuit is filed, Indiana law requires that you sue the individual who caused the collision instead of his insurance company. However, when the at-fault driver is sued, his insurance policy requires his insurance company to provide an attorney to represent him and, if you prevail at trial, pay you up to the limits of the at-fault driver’s policy. As I stated above, some people have a knee-jerk reaction and want to punish the person who caused the wreck, but the reason we all have insurance is to provide coverage for us and pay any damages we might cause.
What Can I Do if the Other Driver Has Minimal Coverage or No Insurance?
If the at-fault driver is uninsured (or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages), you have the right to make a claim against your own uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage policy. Often, accident victims do not want to request their own insurance company to help cover their damages since the other driver was at fault. However, that is exactly the purpose of your UIM policy. You paid premiums to protect yourself, knowing that the other driver might not have any, or enough, insurance to adequately compensate you for your damages. There is nothing wrong with doing this. Your insurance company insures you and has agreed to pay for your damages to make sure you receive appropriate compensation.
If the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage or your UIM limits are not sufficient to compensate you for all of your damages, you do have the right to claim damages directly from the at-fault driver. Seldom is this an option we recommend. If the other driver does not have insurance, or has low limits, he or she probably does not have significant personal assets. I have learned my dad was right- “You can’t get blood out of a turnip”—meaning if people have no insurance, they almost always have no money or assets.
To summarize, when you file a personal injury lawsuit, you file a civil claim against the at-fault driver. By purchasing insurance, the at-fault driver is protected up to his policy limits. By purchasing UIM coverage, you have protected yourself. UIM coverage is one of the most important types of coverage you can buy to protect yourself. UIM coverage is relatively cheap, and the higher your UIM coverage, the more protected you will be if you suffer serious catastrophic injuries by an at-fault driver who does not have adequate coverage.
We Can Help Answer Any of Your Personal Injury Questions.
Our law firm handles car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, slip and fall, dog bite, product injury, wrongful death, and social security disability cases. To see a full list of cases, go to FleschnerLaw.com and click on “Cases We Handle.” Even if you have a case we normally do not handle, call us. We have a Referral Department that can help find an attorney to represent you.
October 14th, 2010|
WTHI reports that a vehicle crashed into a Salvation Army building in a Terre Haute auto accident.
The driver fled the scene of the Terre Haute auto accident, so police continue to look for the vehicle and driver involved in the crash.
Extensive damage was done to the Salvation Army building, but no one at the Salvation Army was injured in the Terre Haute auto accident.
Do you think this is a hit-and-run Terre Haute auto accident, even though another vehicle was not involved? If the driver is apprehended, should he face hit-and-run charges?
September 23rd, 2010|
The Tribune Star reports that two people were injured in a Terre Haute auto accident.
The single vehicle accident happened when the 82 year-old driver failed to slow down for stopped traffic in a construction zone. The driver swerved to avoid hitting the traffic and traveled down an embankment before coming to stop near some railroad tracks.
Both the driver and an occupant were transported to the hospital complaining of pain from the Terre Haute auto accident.
Do you think there should be higher penalties for Terre Haute auto accidents caused in construction zones? These are work sites, and there is often a greater potential for a worker to get injured. Do you think there should be more accountability for drivers who disregard posted speed limits?
September 16th, 2010|
WTHI-TV reports that a four-vehicle Terre Haute auto accident shut down a portion of the interstate for several hours.
The Terre Haute auto accident happened when a dump truck towing a trailer loaded with equipment approached a construction zone at a high rate of speed. Traffic in the construction zone had slowed down, and the driver of the dump truck was unable to slow down in time to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of him in the Terre Haute auto accident.
He also hit another vehicle and did minor damage to a fourth vehicle in the Terre Haute auto accident.
Two people were taken to the hospital to be treated for injuries following the Terre Haute auto accident.
What do you think the penalty should be for those found guilty of causing Terre Haute auto accidents because of a high rate of speed?
September 9th, 2010|
WTHI reports that a teen has been injured in a Terre Haute auto accident as a result of using her cell phone while driving.
According to police, the 19-year-old was traveling eastbound when she lost control of her vehicle while reaching for her cell phone. The vehicle left the road and struck an embankment and then a culvert in the Terre Haute auto accident.
The teen was transported to the hospital and was treated and released following the Terre Haute auto accident. No citations were issued.
Do you think there should be mandatory laws everywhere restricting the use of cell phones while driving to prevent Terre Haute auto accident? What about other things that distract drivers, like eating; do you think this should be illegal as well to prevent Terre Haute auto accidents?
August 19th, 2010|
Police are looking for the person who is responsible for a hit and run West Terre Haute auto accident, WTHI TV reports.
Shortly after 2 a.m., police received a call from someone reporting that a man was injured. They found an 18-year-old lying injured in the middle of Old Bennett’s Lane in West Terre Haute.
The teen was flown to Indianapolis to be treated for injuries following the Terre Haute auto accident.
Police are investigating potential suspects, beginning with the person who called in to report the West Terre Haute auto accident.
What do you think the penalty should be for a hit-and-run West Terre Haute auto accident?
August 5th, 2010|
Do you think the penalty of your crime should be greater if you leave the scene of a Terre Haute auto accident?
Police are searching for the driver of a vehicle that struck a bicyclist in a Terre Haute auto accident, the Trib Star reports.
The bicyclist was traveling west on Old Fort Harrison Road when he hear a vehicle approaching from behind. He reports that he rode to the far right side of the road to let the vehicle pass. A moment later he was struck from behind. The force of the crash threw him of the bike. The driver then sped away.
According to witnesses, the driver turned a corner then stopped and switched seats with the passenger before driving away.
July 29th, 2010|
Do you think following a vehicle too closely should be a punishable offense?
A truck driver was cited for following too closely after he caused a Terre Haute auto accident, but do you think the punishment should be more severe?
The TribStar reports that the Terre Haute auto accident happened shortly after a rental truck pulling a car hauler entered I-70. As the truck was approaching maximum speed, a semi drove up on the rear of the car hauler and collided with the vehicle. The vehicle on the car hauler broke free following the impact and rolled several times.
Only one person suffered injuries in the Terre Haute auto accident.
July 8th, 2010|
A man under the influence of drugs crashed into another vehicle causing a Terre Haute auto accident, reports WTHI-TV.
According to police, the suspect was under the influence of illegal substances at the time of the Terre Haute auto accident. His 12-year-old daughter was also in the car at the time of the Terre Haute auto accident.
Immediately following the Terre Haute auto accident, the man went to a nearby wooded area to dispose of the drugs. He was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and operating a vehicle under the influence.
Do you think child endangerment should be added to the list of charges? Should the man be punished for putting his child in a dangerous situation?