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How to Keep Your Children Safe as They Head Off for College

The Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP


It is an exciting time when your child leaves for college, but it can also be a time filled with worry. While you may have concerns regarding your child’s studies or lifestyle, there are other things you should think about, as well. If your child causes an accident while away at school, are you legally responsible?

This is something that not many parents consider, but they should. In fact, you could be liable for your child’s actions even when he or she is thousands of miles away. Whether driving around campus or racking up credit card debt, what your child does at school has more of an impact on you than you might think.

Parental Liability for Car Accidents

Parents are responsible for teaching their children how to stay safe and how to keep others safe. When parents fail to do that, the courts may find them negligent.

Under New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 388 an owner of a vehicle has vicarious liability for anyone who operates that vehicle. This could be your child, or it could be one of his or her friends. The bottom line is that if someone else is driving a vehicle owned by you and registered under your name, you could be found liable if that person is negligent and causes a car accident.

Parental Liability for Underage Drinking

College kids drink, and when they do, they are not always over the age of 21. Still, spontaneous parties break out and kids who have been studying all week need to let off some steam. If your child is away and becomes drunk and causes an accident, it is unlikely that you will be found liable, unless he or she was driving your vehicle at the time. However, it is a different story if the underage drinking occurs in your home.

If your underage child drinks in your home or invites underage friends over to drink in your home, you are liable for anything that happens after they consume alcohol. You do not even need to give them the alcohol directly. If they sneak off with the beer from the fridge and something happens as a direct result, you will likely be held liable.

Parental Liability for Credit

Thanks to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, students can no longer be tempted to sign up for credit cards for incentives such as smartphones or t-shirts. Under this piece of legislation, parents must co-sign a credit card application when their child is under the age of 21 and has no income.

This is good news, but it means that as a co-signer, you are directly responsible for any exorbitant charges that your child may incur. If your kid racks up high bills that he or she cannot pay, as the co-signer, you are responsible for paying them.

Keep Yourself and Your Child Safe

It is scary to think of all the actions taken by your child for which you could be held liable. Luckily, there are some easy ways to keep yourself and your child safe.
● Speak with your child about the dangers of lending your vehicle to friends
● Check with the state where your child is going to school and ask about the car insurance requirements
● Register your vehicle in your child’s name
● Keep your alcohol at home somewhere kids cannot get to it
● Take out an umbrella insurance policy to protect your assets
● Carefully consider co-signing a credit card application and keep the limits low
Speak with a Long Island Personal Injury Lawyer

If your child encounters legal trouble, you need help from a Long Island personal injury lawyer. At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, we are passionate about upholding the rights of accident victims. Call us today at (866) 878-6774 or fill out our online form for your free consultation and learn more about what we can do for you.

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