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Parent Liability in Teen Auto Accidents

Published April 11, 2016 by Scott Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney
Teen car accident

Getting a driver’s license is a big day in a teenager’s life, and a rite of passage that most teens and their families eagerly look forward to. After years of relying on mom and dad to take them where they want to go, a driver’s license is one more step to adulthood and independence for teenagers.

While being able to drive does mean increased freedom, it also means increased responsibility.

Most teenagers know enough about driving to enable them to pass their driver’s license test, but their actual driving experience is limited. Unfortunately, too little experience and too much confidence often make teen drivers more susceptible to car accidents and injuries.

Serious and potentially life-threatening teen car accidents are all too common, causing serious harm to teenage drivers, as well as to other drivers and their passengers. When this type of accident occurs, the legal theory of vicarious liability may help injured victims not only hold teens themselves financially responsible, but their parents as well.

Teen Car Accident Statistics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the incidence rate for teen car accidents is higher than for any other age group. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times more likely to be at fault for a motor vehicle accident than older, more experienced drivers. The accidents caused by young drivers result in more than $19 billion a year in injury costs.

Overall lack of maturity and driving experience is often to blame. Some of the most common causes of teen car accidents include the following:

  • Underestimating or disregarding dangerous road and traffic conditions.
  • Failing to respond appropriately to weather hazards.
  • Tendency to drive at greater rates of speed.
  • Engaging in tailgating, improper passing, and other aggressive driving behaviors.
  • Distracted driving, such as texting and talking to passengers.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to the CDC, more than 200,000 teen drivers are injured each year in car accidents, many of which could have easily been prevented. Parents are often the key, both in teaching their children to be responsible drivers and for holding them accountable when an accident does occur.

What to Do If You Are Hit by a Minor Driver

According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), any driver who is involved in an accident is required by law to do the following:

  • Stop immediately at the scene of an accident, while taking care to avoid blocking traffic.
  • Exchange information with other drivers involved. This information includes your personal information, such as name and address, your driver’ license and vehicle registration number, and proof of insurance.
  • If there are any injuries, you are required to immediately notify the police.
  • Report the accident within 10 days from the date it occurred if property damages are over $1,000.

If you have been injured, make sure you get the appropriate medical attention regardless of how minor you think your injuries are, and notify your insurance company as soon as possible.

A driver whose reckless or negligent behavior is responsible for causing an accident may also be responsible for any serious injuries others suffer as a result. Teen drivers are no exception. In cases involving teen car accidents, injured victims may file a claim for damages with the teen driver’s insurance company for serious injuries. You may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against a teen driver or his or her parent or parents under the legal theory of vicarious liability.

What Is Vicarious Liability?

In the aftermath of an accident, you may be dealing with the following:

  • Medical expenses and hospital costs, including the costs for ongoing care and treatment.
  • Lost wages, which can threaten your ability to provide for your loved ones, and future losses of income related to your injuries.
  • Permanent disabilities, which could prevent you from engaging in hobbies, interests, and social activities you once enjoyed.
  • Property damage and the cost to repair or replace your vehicle.

When you are experiencing these types of losses as the result of a car accident, a personal injury lawsuit may be in your best interest. A lawsuit can include damages such as compensation for pain and suffering and punitive damages meant to punish particularly reckless or negligent conduct.

In most cases, a lawsuit would be filed against an at-fault driver, but in teen car accidents, a teenage driver is unlikely to be able to satisfy any type of judgment the court might hand down. Fortunately, the legal theory of vicarious liability could provide you the means to hold the teenage driver’s parents accountable for the damages their son or daughter has caused.

Under Section 388 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, the owner of a vehicle can be held liable for injuries caused by anyone operating that vehicle. For parents of teen drivers, this could mean that they would bear the financial responsibility for any accident caused by their child. This is particularly true if they were aware of any propensity their teenager may have had toward causing an accident, such as drug or alcohol problems, prior traffic violations, or a history of reckless behavior.

What If the Teen Driver Was Uninsured?

According to the DMV, New York State insurance requirements mandate that all drivers carry liability insurance in the event of a car crash resulting in damage or injuries. Unfortunately, insurance for teen drivers is often expensive, and unless they are listed under their parent’s policy, there is a chance they may be uninsured.

In the event you are in an accident where an uninsured teen is an at fault driver, you have at least two options:

  • File a claim with your own insurance company through your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
  • File a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault teen driver, or against his or her parents under the legal theory of vicarious liability.

Let Us Assist You Today

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a teenage driver, contact Scott C. Gottlieb, Injury Law Attorney, today. Our experienced car accident attorney has the legal knowledge and experience to assist you in holding responsible parties accountable for the damages they have caused so that you can get the compensation you deserve.

Serving Binghamton and the surrounding areas, we can help. Call or contact us online today for a free consultation.

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