Sep, 2015

Written by kdadmin,
posted in Wilka, Welter & Ash LLP Law Blog.

Are Parents Responsible for Auto Accidents of Their Teenagers?

Under the laws of South Dakota, parents may be liable for the acts of their children, if the children are under the age of 18-years old. In South Dakota a “parent,” is any adult with legal custody of the minor child.

Foster parents are specifically excluded from any liability for harm caused by foster children (S.D. Law section 25-5-23.1), unless the foster parents have some culpability for the actions of foster children under common law rules as explained below.

When a teenager has a serious auto accident, it is important to contact a car accident attorney in Sioux Falls right away, because parental exposure to liability may result. The same is true, for the opposite reason, if a car that a teenager was driving hits a person. They also need to contact a car accident attorney in Sioux Falls as soon as possible. The legal issues are complex, when teenagers have auto accidents. For most cases, the issues require the help of qualified legal counsel.

South Dakota laws state that parents may be held liable for the acts of their minor children under the following circumstances:

  1. When the act is malicious and willful (S.D. Law section 25-5-15) – Willful acts are those that are intended to produce a specific result. An example of this type of behavior would be, if a teenager drives a car into the yard of a neighbor’s house intentionally damaging the garden. Parents of a teenager that makes willful acts, which cause damage, may be sued. Individuals, businesses, government organizations, or churches may file a lawsuit, if any of those entities suffered damage.
  2. When the principles of common law apply.

Common Law Principles of Parental Liability for Children

Common law principles make parents liable for the acts of their minor children under the following circumstances:

  1. When parents know the teenager is not competent to drive or has a history of reckless driving and they still allow the teenager to drive.
  2. When parents do not properly supervise teenage drivers.
  3. When the teenager drives while working for the parent(s).
  4. When the teenage is running an errand for the parent(s) or family.


An auto accident with a teenage driver involved is problematic because it can create liabilities for the teenager’s parents. Besides having auto insurance rates suddenly increase dramatically due to the accident, parents may also find themselves being sued for the damages caused by the actions of their children.