Q: My teenage son took my car without permission and crashed into a neighbor's house. Am I responsible for the damage?

A: That depends, to a certain extent, on what you mean by “teenage.” If your son is under the age of 18, he is technically a minor, and presumably under your direct control and supervision. In this case, you will probably have no choice but to make good any damages resulting from his accident, though hopefully your insurance company will be forgiving and will cover the bill under your collision or liability policy. However, not all insurance companies will pay out under these circumstances, which is one reason you need to hire a knowledgeable lawyer.

Matters are a bit more ambiguous if your son isn't a minor (i.e. he's over the age of 18), but is still living in your home. In this case, he will most likely bear most of the legal responsibility for the accident, but there may still be problems getting your insurance company to cover the damage. (Considering that he's still living at home, your son probably won't be able to pay the damages himself, so you may have no choice but to help him out!)

The worst case scenario, from your perspective, would be if you have a 15-year-old son who has “borrowed” your car a couple of times without your permission, yet you still did not sufficiently secure your vehicle to prevent him from taking it once again. If your son is involved in a serious accident on his third go-round, the Virginia courts may hold you partially or totally responsible, on the grounds that you should have known enough to hide your keys or supervise your son more closely. Only a lawyer can say for sure what your responsibilities are under Virginia law; call the experienced juvenile traffic attorneys at Jarrell, Hicks & Waldman, PC (888-783-9701) for a free consultation!