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Who is liable for a car accident caused by a teen driver?

You were there when your child learned to skate and ride a bicycle, and now they are learning how to drive. Whether your teen is a responsible driver or a little more reckless, there’s always a learning curve for new drivers. As your newbie driver gets behind the wheel (especially your wheels), you might be wondering who’s liable if they crash. We sat down with our Personal Injury lawyers to learn more.

Who is the insurance holder? 

In order to answer the question of liability (legal responsibility), we first need to talk about insurance. Your policy will usually cover any possible damages in the event of an accident when your teen is driving. If your teenager is borrowing your vehicle on a regular basis, it’s important to add them to your auto insurance policy as a secondary or “occasional” driver. As the primary insurance holder and owner of the car, you are likely to be liable if they cause an accident. Keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for paying the difference for any damages your insurance does not cover in the case of a car accident claim. If your teen driver owns their own vehicle, it must be insured under their name, and they are solely responsible.

DID YOU KNOW? If your secondary driver receives multiple speeding tickets, your insurance rates may go up.

What if my teen driver takes the car without consent and causes an accident?  

We all know how tempting it is for a teenager to “borrow” the family vehicle – often without asking first. But this is where things can get complicated. According to Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, the owner of a vehicle is responsible for any loss or damage if the driver had the express or implied consent of the owner. As a result, insurance companies and lawyers must consider something known as “implied consent” when considering liability and Alberta car accident settlements.

What is implied consent?

Let’s say you go out of town for the weekend, leaving your teen at home with access to your vehicle. Unless you make it clear that they are not to use the car while you are away, you may be inadvertently giving your teenager implied consent to use the vehicle. This means that if they take the car and get into an accident, you may still be held liable for potential damages.

What is express consent?

In this context, express consent means you have clearly given your teen permission to use your vehicle. Yes, you can use the car this weekend. You may borrow the car anytime. You can take the car to the movies tonight… are all examples of express consent. As the policy holder and owner of the vehicle, you may be liable if your teen gets into an accident while driving with your consent.

What if my teen did not have consent to take the vehicle?

If anyone takes a car without the owner’s consent, the car is essentially uninsured. If your teen is responsible for an accident, they could be personally liable for damages caused. Alberta’s Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Program also known as MVAC, was put in place by the province of Alberta to offer victims of hit and run accidents, or uninsured drivers, the opportunity to receive compensation for personal injuries. The maximum combined limit for compensation is $200,000. The MVAC does NOT provide any compensation for property damage (i.e. car, bike, etc.). and does NOT guarantee compensation for injuries. The other insurer might cover some personal damages, but the responsibility for damages is going to be the teen’s personally.

What if my teen gets in an accident while running an errand for the family?

As long as you are the owner of a vehicle and have control over your teen’s use of that vehicle, you can be held liable if they cause an accident while using the vehicle to run an errand for the family. You could even be liable if your teen driver decides to go on a joy ride while they are out with your vehicle that causes an accident.

As a parent, you can best protect yourself from liability due to teen driving accidents by having them take out their own auto insurance policies.

Sign your teen up for driver training!

In Alberta, motor vehicle incidents are one of the leading causes of injuries in teens. Driver training is the grown-up version of training wheels. This is a great opportunity for your teenage driver to gain experience behind the wheel with a certified instructor. Driving school can really improve your teen’s skills on the road for when they get their own car or borrow yours. Not only will the training help keep your child (and others) safe on the road, it may also lower their insurance premiums.

We hope this article gave you some helpful information about teen drivers and liability. This is a very exciting time for your teenager. Help them gain confidence and independence on the road while understanding the liability.

Have questions about car accident claims in Alberta? Give us a call or fill out our contact form online and we’ll reach out to you.

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