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My 16-Year-Old was in a Car Accident. What are my Legal Rights?

By Michelle Hockers on February 9, 2016 // Leave a Comment

Milwaukee-car-accident-attroneys-advice-parents-young-driversThis article originally appeared on OnMilwaukee.com.

Your 16-year-old child just passed her driver’s test and wants you to sign off as her sponsor in order to obtain her driver’s license. Do you know what you are signing?

In order for a person under the age of eighteen to receive a driver’s license in Wisconsin, it is necessary to pass both a written and road test. With a few exceptions, once the tests are passed, a parent, stepparent, or adult sponsor is required to sign off on the minor’s license application before a driver’s license is issued to the minor.

What Are You Signing, Exactly?

By signing the driver’s license application, the parent or adult sponsor does the following:

  1. Verifies the new driver has at least 30 hours of driving experience, including 10 hours of driving after dark;
  2. Confirms the driver is in school or a high school equivalency program, has graduated from high school, or is in a home school program; and
  3. Accepts liability for any and all driving actions of the new driver.

Did You Know You Are Liable?

Most parents know about the first two conditions and have no problem signing off that their child has completed the necessary hours behind the wheel and that they are enrolled in school. However, many parents do not realize that they are also agreeing that if their child is involved in a motor vehicle accident, they too, may be held responsible for the actions of their child.

An example of when this would come into play would be if you signed your child’s driver’s license application and one day while driving, your child is involved in an accident. She ran a stop sign and collided with another vehicle injuring the other driver. If the child’s insurance coverage has a low limit or your child does not have insurance, the injured party can seek compensation for their injuries from you and your child.

Your Car Insurance May Not Cover Your Children

If you have your own car insurance, even if you have purchased high insurance limits, your coverage will normally NOT apply to a claim made against you under this sponsorship statute. This would include the example above, where the child was driving his own vehicle, with low limits of insurance, and negligently causes injury. Your insurance will not cover you for your liability in that circumstance, meaning you are personally liable to cover expenses for any damage and injuries sustained.

There are situations where your own insurance coverage would be available if you are liable under the sponsorship statute. Although the policy language would need to be consulted, this would typically occur where your child is driving a vehicle not owned by you or a family member. In that odd instance, your own insurance coverage would apply to your sponsorship liability.

Contact Your Insurance Agent to Ensure Coverage 

Seeing your child get behind the wheel is nerve wracking and scary without the added stress, that as a parent, you may be held responsible for your child’s actions if anything happens out on the road. To protect your child and yourself, make sure your child has adequate insurance coverage. The only way to safely do that is to talk with an independent insurance agent, fully disclose your family car and driving situation, and ask for an explanation on how you can protect yourself. Buying an insurance policy off the Internet should probably be avoided if you are in one of these unusual situations. Agents can discuss the appropriate policy changes, typically called endorsements, to protect you if your child is in an accident. Your agent should be able to help you find the best coverage for your family. 

At Murphy & Prachthauser we are car accident attorneys in Milwaukee and personal injury attorneys in Milwaukee who practice the law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.

If you have a case you would like to speak to a personal injury lawyer about, please contact us to schedule a free consultation and get an experienced Milwaukee auto accident attorneys and Milwaukee personal injury lawyers working on your behalf.

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