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Can you hold Tennessee parents liable for a teen's car accident?

Tennesseans who read this blog may well know the dangers that teenagers can pose on the roadways. They are inexperienced and often distracted on the road, whether because they are using their cell phones or they are engaged in conversation that takes their attention off the road. Nevertheless, teens can, and do, cause injurious wrecks, and victims are often left with significant physical, emotional and financial losses. Though such a victim may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver, are they really likely to recover from the teen driver?

The answer is "yes," depending on the age of the individual who caused the accident. Most states, including Tennessee, have some form of parental civil liability. In the car accident context, a crash victim may be able to hold a teen's parents liable under the theory of negligent entrustment. Sometimes referred to as the "family car" doctrine, this legal theory also states that the owner of a family vehicle can be held legally responsible for any damage caused by another family member, if he or she knowingly consented to allow the other person to drive the vehicle.

Therefore, if an individual is hurt in a car accident caused by a negligent teen, he or she may be better able to collect any monetary awards from the teen's parents. It is still necessary, however, to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the teen was in fact negligence and that the negligence caused compensable harm to the victim.

To establish all of the legal requirements, a victim may decide to turn to a Tennessee attorney who is competent and skilled at handling personal injury matters. Should a victim choose to do so, he or she can work with the attorney to develop a legal strategy that puts the victim's best interests first.

Source:, "Parental Civil Liability," accessed on Aug. 14, 2015

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