When a parent allows a child to use their car, they are trusting that the child will operate the vehicle responsibly. However, history has proven that this is not always the case. In fact, due to the inherent risks of sharing the road with motorcycles, many Maryland motorcycle accidents are caused by young and inexperienced drivers.
Most people assume that when a child causes a motorcycle accident, the child’s parents can be held civilly liable for any damage and injuries caused by the accident, which are often quite serious. In a recent case, a state appellate court discussed when a parent may be liable for their child’s accident. That court applied the “family purpose doctrine,” which confers liability onto the owner of the vehicle that the related minor was operating when causing the accident. This is a blanket rule that applies by default, making it easier for accident victims to recover compensation for their injuries from a minor’s parents. However, under Maryland personal injury law, a different standard is applied.
Maryland employs a different doctrine, entitled negligent entrustment, when determining if a parent can be held liable for the negligent acts of their children. The question in a negligent entrustment analysis is 1.) whether the teen driver was incompetent to operate a motor vehicle, and 2.) whether the parent knew about the incompetence. The idea is that Maryland lawmakers have determined that a parent should not be liable for a child’s negligence unless the minor’s inability to safely operate a vehicle was known to the parent at the time they allowed the child to use the vehicle.