In fact, the majority of teen drivers will be involved in at least one auto accident before age 20. Each year, more than 250,000 teenagers are admitted to emergency rooms due to severe motor vehicle injuries, and more than $4.8 billion in medical and work loss costs arise from these accidents.
With all of this in mind, it’s a bit terrifying to think about the thousands of teen drivers on Hoosier roads. Parents and all motorists should know the risks, liabilities, and costs that come with teen drivers.
What is a Parent’s Responsibility Under Indiana Law?
Indiana has fairly strict laws regarding responsibility for minor drivers. Under the Indiana Motor Vehicle Code, a parent or guardian who signs their child’s driver’s license application financial responsibility form can be held liable for damages they cause.
As long as the teen is in the parent’s custody and lived with them at the time of the accident, or another adult was willing to assume responsibility with the BMV, the parent/adult can be held responsible for accident damages. An emancipated or estranged teen, however, could themselves be held responsible for damages arising from an accident.
There are other limitations to responsibility too. The victim’s damages must be a direct consequence of the teen driver’s actions and the teen must have knowingly or recklessly caused the injuries. Also, parental responsibility can’t typically exceed $5,000 in actual damages.
What are Actual Damages in Teen Driving Accidents?
Under the law, the $5,000 limit on actual damages refers to economic damages that arise directly from an accident. These damages must be set at a fixed dollar amount based on evidence like medical bills, out-of-pocket medical receipts, vehicle repairs, and lost wages.
The concept of “pain and suffering,” for example, falls under non-economic damages so these damages are not considered actual damages. That means the value of a victim’s pain and suffering couldn’t be assigned to a parent under Indiana’s liability laws for a teen driver.
This can be enormously frustrating for people who endure significant pain and suffering due to a teen driver’s negligence on the road. However, with the help of a skilled Indiana car accident attorney, an injured person can make a strong case for actual damages compensation and maximize a monetary award.
Can Teens and Their Parents Avoid Responsibility for Accidents?
It’s important to understand that Indiana’s legal parental liability for teen drivers is not all-encompassing. After an accident, there is no guarantee that an injured victim will be able to hold a teen’s parent responsible.
For example, if a parent has previously signed a waiver releasing them from minor driver responsibility, they are exempt from paying damages. Below is a list of common situations where a parent is not responsible for a teen driver’s accident.
An Indiana Parent is Usually NOT Liable for Damages When:
- The teen driver is 18 years old.
- The teen driver is emancipated or estranged and not living with the parent.
- The parent submitted a written request to the DMV to be removed from responsibility for paying damages and the request was approved.
In rare cases, a parent might be released from responsibility in a situation where they had no knowledge of the teen’s driving and hadn’t given permission, the car was stolen, or the teenager’s driver’s license/permit was suspended. Talk to an attorney about unusual situations where someone may or may not be liable.
As you can see, liability for accidents involving teen drivers can be quite complex. That’s why Crossen Law Firm offers free consultations to help Hoosiers like you understand your options for successful accident compensation.
Car Accident? Call an Indiana Car Accident Attorney
The Crossen Law Firm legal team has the experience to handle your car accident case in Indiana. And while we care about obtaining results for our clients, we also care about clients themselves. We want to help you secure the compensation that you’re owed if you’ve been involved in a teen driving accident.
Contact us at 317-401-8626 to schedule a free consultation about your case.