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Who’s Liable When Teen Drivers Have Car Wrecks?

shutterstock_909878241-300x199Statistics show that teens are among the most dangerous drivers. This is not news to any of us. Many teens are just irresponsible, while others simply don’t have the experience necessary to be good drivers. The fact is that drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are the most dangerous drivers. According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, for each mile driven, teen drivers are approximately four times fore likely to be involved in an accident with another driver. They’re also involved in four times more fatal accidents than drivers between the ages of 25 and 69. Teens account for about ten percent of the population, and twelve percent of all fatal car wrecks.

So given these statistics, the question becomes, “Who is liable for these driving mistakes – the teen, the owner of the vehicle or the teen’s parents?” The following are some situations to consider when answering that question.

A Teen Crashes a Family Vehicle

Chances are, a teen is driving a vehicle that’s owned by the parents or guardian, who can be held liable for “negligent entrustment.” Further, most states will hold parents liable for damages while driving a family car under what is known as the “family car doctrine.” But even if states don’t have this doctrine, parents may be found negligent and responsible for the damages.

A Teen Crashes a Friend’s Car

If a friend owns a car and allows a teen to drive it, that person may be held liable for damages if the teen is involved in an accident. This is called “owner’s liability” in some states. A driver injured by the teen may sue both the teen and the vehicle owner. However, chances are the owner or his insurance company may end up paying for damages.

An Uninsured Teen Is in a Crash

Often insurance plans have a separate policy for uninsured motorists. This is beneficial for victims, and also means that insurance companies may make the teen pay for damages. If the teen driver is on the vehicle owner’s insurance policy, both parties’ insurance companies would work out the claims based on the owner’s policy limits and coverage of damages.

But with this scenario, injured parties and their insurance companies can sue any of the parties involved – owners, teen drivers, parents – to collect damages to themselves, their vehicle or their property.

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