If statistics are anything to go by — and they are — teenagers are a high-risk category on roadways. Being young and reckless, most teen drivers are prone to motor vehicle crashes. This is why most parents have high insurance premiums, but it doesn’t stop them from letting teenagers drive.
In a teenage car accident where the teenager is at fault, it is normal for the other party to wonder who will pay for the damages. The concern is whether the doctrine of vicarious liability makes the parent liable or if the teen goes free. Our Atlanta accident attorneys will break down the legal position on liability in crashes involving teenagers. We can provide you with excellent representation as a victim of a teenage car accident.
How Often Do Teenagers Get Into an Accident?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens. In 2019, almost 2,400 teens in the United States between 13 and 19 died in road accidents. In addition, 258,000 more received treatment in hospital emergency rooms.
It means that every day, 7 teens within that age bracket died due to motor vehicle crashes. The risk is higher in males than females and more common among newly licensed teens. The center lists the following as the leading causes of teenage car accidents:
- Nighttime and weekend driving
- Not using seatbelts
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving with teenage passengers
Do Teen Drivers Receive Special Privileges?
There are no special privileges for teenage drivers in Atlanta. From the moment teens get their driver’s license, they must uphold the same road rules as adult drivers. One of such rules is upholding the duty of care. It means that drivers of all ages must exercise reasonable care to fellow drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and property.
If a teenager breaches this duty by drinking and driving and someone gets hurt in an accident, civil liability rules will apply. Going by the Georgia fault system laws, a teenager who is at fault in a car accident is liable to pay damages to the victim. This would include both economic and non-economic damages. Since teenagers are dependent on their parents and are not solvent, the question becomes if they can pay for damages.
The Application of the Rule of Vicarious Liability
Under the tort doctrine of vicarious liability, a person is liable for the actions of another person even though they did not commit the act. For instance, an employer is vicariously responsible for the negligent actions of their employees. The employee must have committed the act while carrying out a work-related duty.
Similarly, Georgia law holds a parent or guardian responsible for their teenage child or ward acts. In teenage car accident cases, the responsibility begins from:
- When the teen causes a motor vehicle accident;
- The point when the teen became a licensed driver or when the parent and the teen made a co-sign agreement; or
- In both instances.
There is an exception to this rule. If the teenager and the parent are no longer in contact when the accident occurred, the parent will not be vicariously liable. Find out more about this from our Atlanta personal injury lawyers.
Who Do You File a Personal Injury Claim Against?
In a personal injury claim arising from a teenage car accident, it is financially prudent to bring the action against the parent or guardian. This is because parents often include their children in their auto insurance coverage. In such an instance, the parent’s insurance coverage will apply if:
- The parent allowed the child to drive even though they knew that they lacked the skill to operate a vehicle safely.
- The parent allowed the teenager to drive despite a history of habitual reckless behavior when driving a car.
- The teen drove the vehicle for “family purposes.” An example is driving a car owned by the parent to school or grocery shopping for the family.
Thus, you can bring a personal injury claim against the teenager’s parents or guardian’s insurance coverage. In the case of a lawsuit, you can sue the teenager through their parents or guardian or directly, going by the rules of civil procedures.
What Will an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Do for You?
A teenage car accident claim is not always straightforward and must follow the law to the letter to succeed. For this reason, you need an experienced auto accident lawyer. At The Weinstein Firm, our expert team of attorneys understands claims involving teenagers and will use their experience to get you fair compensation. Contact us today to learn more about our services.