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Who Pays When an Underage Driver Hits You?

No parent ever wants to get that dreaded call that their underage teen driver has been involved in a car accident. But crashes involving young, inexperienced drivers are unfortunately all too common. If you were involved in such an accident, you may be wondering – who pays when an underage driver hits you? The answer depends on the specific circumstances and laws in your state regarding parental liability. Let’s explore the specifics.

Teen and Underage Driver Car Accident Statistics

As a group, teen drivers unfortunately pose higher risks on the roads compared to more experienced motorists. According to the CDC, vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Per mile driven, drivers aged 16-19 are nearly three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as drivers 20 and older.

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Common factors increasing teen driver risks include:

These elevated risks make accidents involving underage drivers much more likely to occur and potentially cause serious injury or property damage when they do happen.

Parental Liability Laws for Underage Drivers

Most states have specific laws outlining if and when parents can be held financially responsible when their underage teen driver causes injuries or property damage in a car accident. 

Here’s a look at Indiana’s parental liability statutes as an example:

Indiana Code 9-24-9-4 states that any parent or legal guardian who signs a minor’s driver’s license application agrees to be jointly liable with the minor for any injury or property damage caused by the teen’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle. However, parents are not liable if the accident occurs after the teen turns 18.

Indiana also has limits on the amount parents may be liable for under Indiana Code 34-31-4-1. This statute caps parental liability at $5,000 for any damages caused when the child intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes injury or property damage. Property damage claims would cover losses like damage to your vehicle, while injury claims would cover things like medical expenses and lost wages.

There are exceptions to this $5,000 cap. If the collision was caused by negligent rather than intentional conduct, the cap likely would not apply under 9-24-9-4. Parents could potentially be responsible for full damages in a negligence case.

Steps to Take If You’re Hit by an Underage Driver

What should you do if your car is hit by an underage driver? First and foremost, call the police if there are any injuries or significant property damage and get a copy of the official accident report. This documents critical details of the crash.

Next, identify if the driver is underage and get their personal information as well as the name and contact details of their parent or guardian. Also, get a copy of their auto insurance information.

If seeking treatment for injuries, be sure to explain to all medical providers that this was a car accident, and don’t just describe your symptoms. This helps create a record tying your injuries to the collision.

Collect and keep records of all related expenses and economic losses like medical bills, hours of work missed, towing fees, repair estimates, etc. This documentation is key for any insurance claims or potential personal injury lawsuits.

Contact your car insurance provider promptly to file a claim, which allows them to pursue the teen driver’s insurer for damages. If injuries were involved, it’s wise to also consult with an experienced car accident lawyer regarding your rights and options.

There may be multiple parties potentially liable in an underage driver accident case. The teen driver is one, but their parents or legal guardian who signed for their license may share liability as well under state law. An attorney can investigate and identify all avenues for recovering compensation.

The Importance of Teen Driver Safety Education

teen driving

While accidents can never be fully prevented, education and setting reasonable limits for new drivers are extremely important. Many states have graduated driver licensing systems that incrementally provide more driving privileges as teens gain experience behind the wheel. 

Restrictions like limits on night driving, passenger limits, and cell phone bans for underage drivers are effective in reducing crashes. But parental involvement and guidance are also crucial for instilling safe driving habits from the very start.

Taking proactive steps to properly train and coach your new teen driver can pay huge dividends in the long run. Not only can it prevent accidents from happening in the first place, but putting safety first limits your liability exposure if a crash does occur.

Contact Crossen Law Firm After an Underage Driver Car Accident

If an underage driver hits you, don’t delay in taking action to protect your rights. Consult the trusted car accident lawyers at Crossen Law Firm to ensure you recover maximum compensation from all liable parties. We will provide a free consultation to review your case and options.

Call our office at 317-401-8626 or contact us online to set up your free consultation. You deserve representation from an experienced legal team that makes it a priority to help injured clients recover the maximum possible compensation.