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Parent Liability for Minor Child in DUI Accident

  • By: Ron Hedding
  • Published: December 30, 2019

When it comes to someone under the age of 21 getting into a DUI accident, obviously that person is going to need an attorney right away.  The case will probably be sent into the juvenile court if they’re under the age of 18.

If they’re over the age of 18, the person will be sent into the adult court.  If there was damage caused to a vehicle or someone was injured, obviously parents are usually worried that they will be responsible for paying money because of their minor child’s accident.

Negligently Entrusting a Minor

What it really boils down to is whether or not the parents negligently entrusted a minor with a vehicle and that minor drank alcohol and caused an accident.  Then the parents might shoulder some responsibility. Parent Liability for Minor Child in a California DUI Accident

If the minor is under the age of 18 in juvenile court, the juvenile authorities will make the parents pay the restitution even if the minor doesn’t have the money.  If the person is an adult that starts to become a little more tricky.

The criminal courts can’t make the parents pay restitution.  They’re going to order the person under the age of 21 who got in the DUI accident to pay any restitution.

Because that person is an adult and parents can’t shoulder criminal restitution for their children, even though most parents do if they can afford it to try to help their child out.

Civil Judgment for Damages

Civilly though, there are occasions when an adult allows their child to have a car, even though that car is 18 years or older and they allow that child to have access to alcohol.

That could cause the parent to be liable to someone in a civil case.  It really has to do with what’s characterized as negligent entrustment of a vehicle. If a good attorney can mount an argument that the parent is responsible they will not only sue the child, they’ll sue the parent as well.

Obviously, that’s why we have insurance.  So, hopefully, if your child did get in an accident and you were insured, the insurance company will cover it and obviously protect you as well from any responsibility to any third parties who might have been involved in an accident.

Criminal DUI with Accident Case

Now of course, that does not deal with the criminal case.  Not only will the minor be responsible for any injuries our out of pocket money that any victims are having to shoulder, the prosecutors will obviously look to punish the minor for getting in an accident and being under the influence.

Most of the deaths on the road in California are caused by under age drivers who are drinking alcohol.  People can be killed and so obviously, you want to get a criminal defense attorney right away to handle the criminal aspect of the case for your child.

Do damage control so that child will eventually be able to drive again, because typically for a DUI as a minor, you’re going to lose your license for a year.

The child can apply for a hardship license, but that is very difficult to get, in fact, almost impossible to get.  So, assume your child is going to lose their driver’s license for at least a year.

They’re also going to be looking at criminal punishment, jail time, probation, and they’re going to be ordered to pay restitution if they were involved in any sort of an accident that is DUI related.

So, your best bet is to get an attorney right away.  Let that attorney review everything.  You and your child should meet with the attorney.  Give the attorney all the information related to the case.  Be honest.  Be straightforward so the attorney can best help you with the under age DUI accident matter.

Ron Hedding

About the Author Named Top Los Angeles DUI Defence Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 DUI Defence attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.