When high school resumes after holiday break, thousands of new teen-drivers will return to the road. If you are the parent of a teen driver, you may be wondering about your liability should your new driver get in an accident.

Georgia, like many other states, has adopted a series of parental responsibility laws. These laws hold a parent liable if their minor child commits a malicious or willful act that causes injury to another. Nevertheless, most teen automobile accidents are neither malicious nor willful. Instead, these accidents tend to be the result of carelessness or negligence. In Georgia, a parent can still be held liable for these sorts of accidents under the “family purpose” doctrine.

Under this law, a parent can be held liable for their teen’s driving when:

(1) the parent owns has an interest in or control over the automobile;
(2) the parent made the automobile available for family use;
(3) the parent is a member of the teen driver’s immediate household; and
(4) the vehicle was driven with the permission or acquiescence of the parent.

Hicks v. Newman, 283 Ga. App. 352 (2007).

Because Georgia law imposes liability for so many car sharing situations common to families with teens, parents should consider a few simple tips to keep their teens safe:

1) Require that your teen wear his seatbelt. Seat belts are the most effective safety precaution in a car, yet teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use compared to other age groups. In 2015, only 61% of teens reported always wearing their seat belt when in the car with another person.

2) Educate your child about distracted driving. The average time it takes to answer a text message is five seconds. In a vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour, a texting driver will travel the length of a football field before his eyes return to the road after answering a text message. The distractions created by cellphones are as dangerous as an impaired driver on the road. Talk to your teen about texting while driving, and set a good example by not using handheld technology while you are driving.

3) Limit the number of other teens in the car. A 2012 study from AAA found that the risk of a fatal accident quadrupled when a teen driver was traveling with three or more teens. By limiting the number of passengers, parents can limit the risk to their new driver.

Frank Harris and his firm wish you and yours a safe and pleasant holiday. While we hope that you never need our services, our experienced, compassionate attorneys are here to help if you or a loved one has experienced an accident. Call us today at (678)483-8657 and set up a free initial consultation about your potential personal injury claim, or contact us online to discuss your case.