Can a Minor Child Sue Their Parents in a Car Accident?

Parents sometimes cause car accidents when their children in the car.  When these children are injured, can the minor children bring a personal injury claim against their parents?

Let’s back up. Why would a child sue their own parent?  A child should sue their own parent because while they are technically suing their parent, the claim is really an insurance claim.  So if the child is hurt in a car crash, the insurance company is making payment to make good on that claim.

Minors Usually Cannot Sue Their Parents But There Is a Car Accident Exception in Maryland

In Maryland, the doctrine of parental immunity does apply, which means that in general, a minor child cannot sue their parents for injuries that occur in the course of a familial relationship, including those that occur in a car accident.

However, there is an exception to this rule in Maryland. According to Maryland law, a parent can be held liable for the negligent operation of a vehicle if it is used for commercial purposes, regardless of whether the vehicle is owned by the parent or the child.

So, if a minor child is injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of a parent who was using the vehicle for commercial purposes, they may be able to sue their parent for damages. However, if the accident occurred as a result of a typical family driving situation, the child would not be able to sue their parent under Maryland law.

What is the Maryland law for minors to sue their parents to collect the insurance proceeds?

The relevant law is:

Maryland Court and Judicial Proceedings § 5-806 which states in pertinent part:

Motor vehicle accidents involving parents and children

(a) This section applies to:

(1) An action by an unemancipated child against a parent of the child; and
(2) An action by a parent against an unemancipated child of the parent.

Parent-child immunity

(b) The right of action by a parent or the estate of a parent against a child of the parent, or by a child or the estate of a child against a parent of the child, for wrongful death, personal injury, or property damage arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle, as defined in Title 11 of the Transportation Article, may not be restricted by the doctrine of parent-child immunity or by any insurance policy provisions, up to the limits of motor vehicle liability coverage or uninsured motor vehicle coverage

What does this law that allows children to sue their parents mean?

This law that allows children to sue their parents means that no matter what the insurance policy says, Maryland law does not allow an insurance company to restrict the ability of an unemancipated child to bring a motor vehicle accident injury claim against their parent. Our car crash lawyers sue parents, children, and other relatives frequently.  Is this cold?  I can see where you might think it is. But you are suing a relative in name only.  We all know the insurance company is picking up the tab.

As we discuss below, this rule is limited to motor vehicle accident claims.  This exception exists because of mandatory automobile insurance creating universal coverage for motor vehicle torts.  This rule is consistent with Maryland’s clear public policy to ensure a path to compensation for innocent victims of motor vehicle accidents.  On the food chain of innocent victims, who is more innocent than a minor child passenger who suffers an injury?

Will my car insurance rates go up if my child makes a personal injury claim against me?

It is very possible that your rates will increase anyway because you caused a motor vehicle accident.  So you might be saving pennies and passing up dollars by not letting your child bring a claim. 

People often irrationally avoid bringing claims because they fear their rates will increase, even if the increase is small compared to the amount to the claim.

child sues parent

Is there a Maryland case discussing a child’s right to sue a parent in a car accident case?

The only Maryland appellate opinion that discusses § 5-806 is Allstate Ins. Co. v. Kim, 829 A.2d 611, 376 Md. 276 (2003).

Can Children Sue Parents in Car Accident Lawsuits in Other States?

Children cannot sue their parents in many states. In general, minors cannot sue their parents as they are protected by the doctrine of parental immunity. This doctrine holds that parents cannot be sued by their children for injuries that occur in the course of a familial relationship.  Maryland has this rule as well but has a car accident exception.

But even in more rigid states, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if a minor child is injured in a car accident caused by the intentional or reckless conduct of their parent, they may be able to sue their parent for damages. Additionally, in some states, parents can be held liable for the negligent operation of a vehicle if it is used for commercial purposes.

Does this law mean children in Maryland can bring any personal injury action against their parents?

The motor vehicle accident exception in § 5-806 is a narrow exception to parental immunity from tort claim brought by their children.   Under Maryland law, a parent has no civil liability for failing to perform a parental duty or even for excessive punishment that was not maliciously inflicted.  Minor children cannot bring, for example, a slip and fall claim against their parents for not keeping the premises safe at their home.

What is the statute of limitations for a child suing their parent in Maryland?

The statute of limitations for a child’s negligence claim generally does not expire until three years after the child has turned eighteen. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-201. So a parent cannot let a child’s claim die by not allowing the child to file a claim.  The minor, if she is aware of the situation, could bring her own claim the minute she turns 18.