Teenagers are notoriously poor drivers. In fact, per mile driven, those between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times more likely to crash than more experienced drivers. Though young people between the ages of 15 and 24 represent just 14 percent of the U.S. population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports they account for 30 percent of all injury-causing crashes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut as a general rule, teenagers don’t have much money. Most still live with their parents or guardians. They may have a part-time job, but usually little to no savings. Because the crash rate among teens is so high, insurance for this group is expensive, so many families tend to purchase the bare minimum coverage.

For those involved in crashes with at-fault teen drivers, there may be a number of options for compensation. Usually, the first place we look is the teen’s own insurer. If the policy does not cover the total extent of damages inflicted, we may look to plaintiff’s own insurer for underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.

The other source we would explore is the teen driver’s parents. There are usually a couple theories of liability on which we might pursue such action. The first falls under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. That is, if the vehicle belongs to the parent, the parent – as the owner – is liable for any damages resulting from the negligent operation of that vehicle. Beyond that, an injured party could assert negligent entrustment, particularly if it’s shown parent knew or should have known teen was a dangerous driver likely to cause harm and allowed him or her to use the car anyway.

A parent may have a separate insurance policy for the vehicle. In addition, many people have umbrella insurance policies that may offer extended liability coverage for such instances. Beyond that, plaintiffs can secure compensation payment through garnishment of wages or bank accounts or pursuing other assets.

It’s imperative car accident victims in Fort Myers consult with an experienced lawyer because all potential options for compensation might not be immediately apparent.

In the recent case of Bush v. Elkins, plaintiffs pursued action for serious injuries sustained by an adult passenger of a vehicle driven by an unlicensed 16-year-old driver. The passenger and his family filed a lawsuit against the driver, his mother, the owner of the vehicle, the insurance policy holder, the insurer and the adjuster who handled the claims.

Passenger was ultimately able to secure a settlement against defendants, though his father separately attempted to press forward with claims of infliction of emotional stress and contractual interference. Trial court would later dismiss those claims, and the Alaska Supreme Court recently affirmed that dismissal.

Although the father failed to adequately plead his case (more than likely because he was representing himself), the plaintiff did ultimately secure a fair settlement – even though the teen was not licensed or insured because the car was adequately insured and because his mother could be held vicariously liable.

The CDC has identified eight “danger zones” which represent the leading causes of teen crashes. Those include:

  • Driver inexperience
  • Driving with teen passengers
  • Nighttime driving
  • Failure to use seat belts
  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Reckless driving
  • Impaired driving

Those injured by teen driver actions should consult with an experienced lawyer.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Bush v. Elkins, Jan. 23, 2015, Alaska Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Gonsalves v. Li – Retrial of Crash Case Following Errors, Jan. 24, 2015, Fort Myers Crash Lawyers