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What Happens After My Teen Driver Causes a Car Accident?

Parenthood is full of anxieties. From the moment your child is placed in your arms, there is as much to worry about as there is to celebrate. After more than a decade of concerns about your child’s health, happiness and safety, the idea of them getting behind the wheel of a car can be incredibly worrisome. Still, getting one’s driver’s license is a seminal step in a person’s life. The only way to quell your nerves as a parent is to ensure you’ve adequately prepared them for what can happen on the open road.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are at the highest risk of causing or being involved in a car accident. While a statistic like that might scare some parents off from allowing their teen to drive at all, the reality is that inexperienced drivers in every age group can find themselves in over their heads. By preparing kids for worst case scenario driving situations and understanding your own role in their driver’s journey, you’ll protect your entire family’s best interests.

In the Wake of an Accident

There are few things in life as terrifying as your first car accident. No matter your age, colliding with another vehicle can be traumatic, especially if you’re the one behind the wheel. Such accidents have a way of challenging even the cool-headed amongst us. That’s why it’s so important to prepare for such incidents before they happen. Review the steps to take after a collision with your kids the next time they decide to hit the road.

Teens are held to the same standard as any other driver on the road, so when they are involved in an accident, they’ll need to summon the same poise and responsibility expected from any other motorist. Should your son or daughter find themselves involved in an accident, they’ll need to pull their vehicle out of the way of traffic and call the police. Next, they should check on the other motorists involved and see if anyone is hurt. Before leaving the scene, anyone involved in the accident should exchange insurance information and take photos of the damage done.

These simple steps sound easy to the average adult driver who has been driving for years. For teens under pressure, the experience can be overwhelming. Talk with your kids about this moment before it happens. They’ll be better for it should disaster indeed strike.

Understanding Vicarious Liability and Negligent Entrustment

While teens are held to the same standard as any other driver, the idea of vicarious liability comes into play when an accident occurs. The legal term refers to the concept that when a teenager causes damage, their parents will be held responsible. Because teens under the age of 18 are still technically children, their actions are tied directly back to their parents. Though not every state has developed vicarious liability laws, most require parents to “co-sign” their child’s driver’s license. This act serves as an agreement that they will take on the responsibilities that come with putting a teen driver behind the wheel, accidents and all.

The exception to this rule? If you do not have custody of the child at the time of the accident, you generally won’t be held liable for damages they cause. Since parental responsibility laws require the presence of parents to help educate, supervise or control their teen driver, custody is a crucial element. Teens over the age of 18, similarly, are no longer under their parents’ control. The damage they cause in an accident falls onto their shoulders, not their parents’.

Negligent entrustment is a similar concept. Like vicarious liability, it puts the responsibility of a teen driver on the shoulders of their parents. For example, if a teen has been involved in multiple accidents and has received tickets for distracted driving and reckless driving, their parents can be held responsible for the damage they cause in additional accidents. Parents have a duty to their fellow motorists to keep dangerous drivers off the road until they become more experienced and responsible. Failure to do so can result in devastating consequences, which is why negligent entrustment holds parents responsible for their child’s actions.

Seeking Legal Advice

If your teen has caused an accident, you’ll want to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Understanding exactly what damages fall to you and your family and what can be paid by the insurance company is important but not always easy to comprehend. Generally speaking, if your son or daughter has been added to an insurance policy with adequate limits, you won’t be paying out of pocket. Still, parents can benefit from speaking with a car accident lawyer about their rights and the rights of their teen after a collision.

Finding a local car accident attorney to help with your case can be difficult. While plenty of firms tout their successes in the courtroom, it’s not always easy to connect with a lawyer who truly understands your concerns and is patient and diligent enough to shoulder them. If you’re struggling to narrow the field and find the attorney that’s right for you, Lawsuit Info Center’s auto injury claim guide is a great place to start. Learn about your options following an accident and get insight into what steps you should take next.