Am I Liable If My Teen Driver Causes a Car Accident?
A common fear of many parents of teenagers is that their teen drivers will be involved in a car accident. They work hard to educate their teen drivers to ensure they are safe drivers. However, there comes a time when parents must let go and allow their teenagers to drive without adult supervision.
Teen Drivers and Car Accidents
Teen drivers do have a high risk of being involved in car accidents. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States.
Some of the factors that can increase a teen driver’s risk of being involved in a car accident include:
Teen drivers who have other teenagers as passengers in the vehicle.
Newly licensed and inexperienced teen drivers.
Speeding and reckless driving.
Alcohol and drug use.
Weekend and nighttime driving.
Distracted driving and drowsy driving.
All states have some form of graduated driver licensing systems for teenage drivers. The graduated system allows teen drivers to gain driving experience and learn safe driving behaviors while being supervised by an adult driver in the vehicle.
Graduated driver licensing systems also limit driving for teen drivers in certain high-risk situations, such as driving at night or driving on the interstate. The systems also encourage greater participation by parents in training and supervising their teen drivers to reduce the risk of car accidents.
Teen Driver Accident Statistics
During 2018, teen drivers were involved in 3,070 fatal crashes. Teen drivers were involved in 3,255 fatal car accidents in 2017. In addition to the deaths involving teen drivers, car accidents involving teen drivers also result in thousands of injuries each year.
Sadly, even the most well-trained, safe teen driver can be involved in a car accident. Car accidents occur for a variety of reasons. The same common reasons for all traffic accidents can be factors in a teen driver accident.
Common causes of teen driving accidents include:
Distracted driving, including cell phone use and texting while driving.
Poor weather conditions and hazardous road conditions.
Defective car parts and defective automobiles.
Drowsy and fatigued driving.
Alcohol-impaired driving and drugged driving.
Speeding and reckless driving.
Failing to yield the right of way and other traffic infractions.
If a teen driver is responsible for causing an accident, the teen driver can be held liable in a civil claim for damages caused by the accident. An accident victim may sustain severe injuries in the accident, which results in substantial financial losses and other damages.
Teen drivers are held to the same standards as adult drivers. Therefore, before a teen driver can be held liable for a car accident, there must be evidence that the teen driver caused the crash.
Unfortunately, it is easy to blame a teen driver for a car accident because teen drivers are known to have several risk factors that increase their chance of causing an accident. Parents should contact an experienced car accident lawyer immediately to protect their child’s legal rights. The parent may also need an attorney to protect the parent from being held liable for a teen driving accident.
Can Parents Be Held Liable for a Teen Driving Accident?
It depends on the laws in the state in which the accident occurred. If a parent is required to sign a consent form for a teenager to obtain a driver’s license, the consent form may contain an assumption of legal liability for damages. The parent’s legal liability may continue until the teenager reaches 18 years of age or is emancipated.
Some states automatically hold parents liable if the parents provided the vehicle for the child to drive. For example, if you purchased a vehicle for your teenager to drive or you have a family vehicle that your child drives, you could be liable for a teenage driving accident.
The laws in some states require that victims prove a parent’s liability under the theory of negligent entrustment. The parent would be liable for damages if the victim could prove that the parent was somehow negligent in entrusting a car to their teenager. For instance, you knew your child did not have sufficient experience to drive at night, had a history of reckless driving, or a series of traffic violations, yet you still allowed your child to drive.
However, if the teenager was 18 years of age and the teenager legally owns the vehicle, the parent may not be liable for damages resulting from a car accident. Also, if a parent does not have legal custody of a child, the parent may not be liable because the child’s actions were not within the control of the parent.
Seeking advice from a car accident attorney can help protect the teen driver and the parents from liability for an accident that the teenager did not cause.