Public Hearing on Bill Limiting Liability for Parents Negligence of Minor Drivers

Legislation (AB 706) was introduced by Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) that would protect parents from unlimited liability when their minor child is involved in an automobile accident. Wisconsin is currently one of only 12 states that imposes unlimited liability to parents who sign their child’s driver’s license application. AB 706 could cap damages for parents at $300,000.

Very few parents are aware that every time they give their minor child the keys to the car they are taking on unlimited liability for negligence. They may even be aware of the limitation on liability for intentional conduct, and have an expectation of similar limit on negligence.

California has a similar law imposing liability on parents for their child’s negligence while driving a motor vehicle, yet California has a much lower cap ($15,000 per injury; $30,000 for all injuries per incident; and $5,000 for property damage).

WDC Secretary/Treasurer, Jeffrey Leavell testified at the public hearing in favor of the bill. A video of Mr. Leavell’s testimony can be viewed on Wisconsin Eye (the testimony begins 2 hours and 27 minutes into the video.)  Mr. Leavell argued that AB 706 is reasonable legislation that maintains compensation for plaintiffs, while ensuring that parents are not financially ruined due to their child’s negligence while driving a vehicle.