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Young Drivers In Florida: Understanding Parental Responsibility Laws


As many parents know, teenagers are prone to engaging in risk-taking behavior.  While there is a biological reason for this uptick in risky behavior, it doesn’t necessarily mean that teens and their parents are off the hook for personal injury and property damage that occur as a result.

Like many states, Florida has its set of statutes that are known together as “parental responsibility” laws.  Children typically do not have the financial assets or comprehensive insurance coverage necessary to handle the event of an accident or personal injury lawsuit.  Parental responsibility laws are put in place to make parents accountable for the reckless actions of their children.

Opponents of parental responsibility laws argue that these laws aren’t fair, and that parents shouldn’t be financially responsible for the impulsive actions of their children.  Regardless, these laws exist.  If you are a Florida resident and parent, read on to discover what you need to know about parental responsibility laws in your state.

The Age of Majority 

Florida’s parental responsibility laws only apply to unemancipated minors under the age of 18.  In other words, 18 years old is considered the “age of majority” in Florida.  After a child turns 18, parental responsibility laws no longer apply, even if the individual still lives with or receives substantial support from their parents.

The Scope of Responsibility 

When a child is ready to apply for a driver’s license in Florida, the parent is required to sign and verify the driver’s license application.  By signing, Florida law also clearly indicates that the parent is accepting responsibility for any property damage or personal injury they cause due to negligent driving or willful misconduct while behind the wheel.

Courts will often look to determine if the parents had prior knowledge or experience with their child acting in a reckless manner.  If they do, then the courts may argue that the parents have a responsibility to take rational steps to help prevent future harm from occurring.

Proving that parents had prior knowledge or reason to believe the child was capable of dangerous activity can be challenging.  If there is a record of previous involvement with law enforcement, substantial school discipline records, or mental health records that indicate a propensity for reckless behavior, these can be used to build a case that the parents had a responsibility to be proactive in preventing future reckless behavior.

Consulting with an Attorney 

If you are involved in an auto accident due to reckless driving of a minor and want to subsequently file a personal injury lawsuit for damages incurred, consulting with a personal injury attorney is strongly advised.  As the reader may be able to tell from this article, parsing through Florida’s parental responsibility laws to build a case against the minor and their parents can be a complex endeavor.

For over three decades, Payer Law has been serving the Orlando and greater Florida area in a variety of personal injury cases.  If you have been hurt in an auto accident and want to explore your options, contact the Orlando car accident attorneys at Payer Law for a consultation.


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