College Culpability


I am writing for myself and my daughter. I need to talk to her about responsibility. What are the legal issues with children at college?

I'm still waiting for this talk from my parents. They just hoped for the best. Whether a conscious decision or not, parents are legal partners with their children. When there is a problem, mom and dad pay for it. Clearly, we live in a litigious society, with over 80% of the world’s lawyers living in the USA. Annually, over 15-million civil lawsuits are filed here. A bit of knowledge about liability for your children is important to discuss.

Litigation involving negligence and vehicles is on the rise and college kids with limited driving experience are prime targets. As a parent, you're not generally liable for the negligent operation of a car by your children. However, you may be implicated if you own it.

If the car is registered in your name, there's a possibility that you'll be liable for car accidents or injury caused by reckless driving. The law varies from state to state. In New York, the owner of the car is at fault, not the driver. Do your research and be aware of where you stand legally, when letting your kids use your car.

Students have a tendency to share cars with friends. This poses several possible risks, such as uninsured or unlicensed drivers. Again, depending on the state laws, any legal action from an accident or worse, is likely to come back to the owner of the vehicle. Ideally, the car or truck should be registered and insured in your child’s name.

One guarantee at college is that there will be parties. As a parent, you need to be aware of the risks of accident or even death caused by underage drinking or drugs taken at college parties. You could be held responsible for any tragic outcome on the part of your children. Providing alcohol to those under 21 also puts you or any other family members in the firing line, should something go awry.

There are other problems from running up debt while at college. The Credit Card Act made it tougher for students under 21, with no income, to get credit. This means that the parent must be involved with any credit card application. As co-signer, you have the ability to review your child’s spending and adjust the credit limit as necessary.

However, if your kids do go overboard on the credit card spending, you're responsible for the bill. Instill responsibility and help your kids build a good credit rating.

Be a parent, not a friend.

(Jacob Maslow is the the founder and editor of Legal Scoops).


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