Who Is Liable When A Teen Driver Causes An Accident?

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Learning to drive is one of the most exciting and important milestones in the life of teens.

It's one step closer to a little bit of freedom from their parents, but it also brings on a new set of responsibilities.

According to the CDC, Teenage drivers are at the highest risk for causing or being involved in car accidents compared to all other age groups.

Besides the obvious safety concerns that come with car accidents, there's another worry for parents regarding their teens being involved in car accidents: negligence.

Parents could be legally liable if their teens cause a car accident.

In the article below, we will discuss who could be liable if teen drivers cause a car accident and how to find the best car accident lawyer.

Negligence and Fault

When decided who was at fault for a car accident, the most commonly-applied legal concept is negligence.

The theory of negligence says that every driver has a duty to drive in a reasonably safe way.

If a driver doesn't meet that duty and injures another driver, the negligent driver can be legally liable for the resulting damages.

These damages can include medical bills, property damage, lost wages, vehicle damage, and other non-economic losses.

Negligent Entrustment

The theory of negligent entrustment says that a parent can be liable when their teen causes a car accident.

Under negligent entrustment, the parent can be held liable if they knew or should have known that the teen driver could be a danger to others on the road.

Let’s say the parents of a teen driver know that even though he has his driver’s license, their son has little experience with highway and city driving, he has been in three accidents in less than a year, and has been ticketed twice in that same time.

His parents still allow him to borrow the car for a cross-country summer road trip with his high school friends.

This trip includes drives through downtown New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

During the road trip, the teen driver, unsurprisingly, causes a car accident driving through LA.

This means that, under the legal theory of negligent entrustment, the teen's parents could potentially be liable for any damages that result from the accident.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability says that a parent could be liable for their teen driver's wrongdoing if they are acting under the direction and authority of the parent.

Depending on where you live, this type of liability is sometimes referred to as the family use, family purpose, or the family car doctrine.

Under this doctrine, parents can be liable if their teen driver causes an accident while pursuing a family purpose or use.

This purpose can be pretty much anything as long as the parents have control over the use of the teen driver's vehicle.

If a parent asks their teen driver to run to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, the parent could be liable if the teen driver causes a motor vehicle accident to perform the errand.

The parent could still be liable even if the teen decides to go on a joy ride around the neighborhood and causes a reckless driving accident instead of going straight to the store.

Protect Yourself When You Have a Teen Driver

As a parent, you can protect yourself from liability during teen driving accidents by having them take out their own auto insurance policies.

You should also sit down with all of the teenage drivers in your household and discuss automobile safety on a recurring, consistent basis.

Talk about the following safety issues with your teens and stress the importance of making safe choices.

  • Drinking and driving, or driving under the influence of any drug, prescription or not
  • Safe operating procedures like wearing a seatbelt and using turn signals and headlights while driving
  • Weather conditions that can affect a driver’s visibility and the way a vehicle handles
  • Following the rules of the road

Talking about being safe while driving n a regular basis is a great way to protect your teen driver from accidents and injuries.

But don't stop at just a discussion.

Show them these safety procedures by practicing them yourself all the time.

Your teen probably spends more time in the car with you than anyone else, so use this time to show them the proper way to drive a car.

Show them things like maintaining a safe following distance, wearing a seatbelt, keeping your phone while driving, and obeying all traffic laws.

Let them know that accidents can happen, but they can do things to reduce their chances of being involved in one by being driving defensively.

Work with an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

A car crash can happen to anyone at any time, no matter how careful the drivers are.

If you or any of your teens have been injured in a car accident, it's in your best interest to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

They help drivers pursue monetary compensation for their damages in a personal injury claim and protect you from behind held liable.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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