My car was driven by my child and was involved in a car crash in Massachusetts. Am I liable for any injuries or damage if my child was negligent?Unless otherwise provided by law, the general rule is that a parent is not liable for the careless behavior of their minor child who was driving.
However, a parent may be liable for an accident caused by their child under the theory of "negligent entrustment". In fact, this theory applies in non-parental situations as well. A lawsuit for negligent entrustment arises when the owner of a motor vehicle entrusts (i.e. temporarily gives the use their vehicle) to someone the owner knows to be incapable or incompetent of using the vehicle properly and a third party is injured.
Liability for negligent entrustment is determined by applying general principles of negligence. Under Massachusetts law, it must be shown that:
- The defendant owned or controlled the motor vehicle;
- The defendant gave the driver permission to operate the vehicle;
- The driver was incapable or incompetent to operate the vehicle;
- The defendant had actual knowledge of the driver's lack of capability or incompetence;
- The driver was negligent; and
- The driver's negligence proximately caused the accident and the plaintiff's injuries.
For example, if you gave the keys to your car to someone who was obviously intoxicated and that person then had an accident which resulted in an injury to a third party, you would be liable under the theory of negligent entrustment. Other examples -- knowingly giving your permission to use your car to someone who is clearly not suited to be driving because of their youth, inexperience, mental capacity, or poor driving record.
If you are involved in an automobile accident and you believe that you have been injured by someone who is driving a vehicle owned by someone else, you may be able to sue the actual owner of the vehicle under this legal theory. Before pursuing such a lawsuit, however, you should retain an attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney can accurately inform you whether you have a case against the true owner of the vehicle. He can also aid you in discovering if the owner was negligent in entrusting the vehicle to the operator that caused the accident.
For more information on Massachusetts auto accident injuries, read the following articles: