Personal Injury Attorneys

Who is Responsible for Injuries Caused by a Teen Driver?


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers aged 16-19 are the most dangerous people on the road. A driver between the ages of 16 and 19 is almost three times as likely to be involved in a fatal automobile accident as a driver aged 20 or older. Unsurprisingly, the newest drivers—those aged 16 and 17—present an even greater risk than their slightly older peers.

If the young driver who causes an accident is 18 or older, liability issues play out just as they would with an older driver. But, what happens when the driver who injures you or a loved one is a minor?

Liability and Automobile Insurance Follow the Car in New York

Parental Liability for Teen Driving Accidents

In New York, the owner of a motor vehicle is legally responsible for injuries and damages caused by any person operating the vehicle with the owner’s permission, and the owner’s automobile insurance generally covers those damages. So, if a teenager is driving a car belonging to his or her parents, the parents will be responsible for any damage the teen causes, and the injured party will likely be able to pursue compensation from the parents’ insurance carrier. The same principle applies if the teen is driving a car or truck owned by an aunt, a neighbor, or any other motor vehicle owner who knowingly entrusted the vehicle to the teen.

While this system of liability addresses most car accidents caused by teenage drivers, there are exceptions. For example, if the teenager takes someone else’s car without permission, and the vehicle owner was not negligent in making the vehicle accessible, the owner will typically not be responsible for injuries and damages the teen causes. In addition, New York law allows teens 16 and older to own and register motor vehicles in their own names, meaning that there may be no adult owner involved.

Third Party Liability for Teen Driving Accidents

Whether or not a teen driver’s parents or another owner of the vehicle involved in the crash is liable, an experienced New York car accident lawyer will assess the facts of the case to determine whether additional parties may share responsibility. One common example involves intoxicated underage drivers.

CDC data reveals that about 15% of drivers aged 15-20 who are involved in fatal automobile accidents are legally intoxicated. New York law imposes possible liability on providers of alcohol in two different ways. First, the Dram Shop Act makes an establishment serving alcohol liable for damages caused by an intoxicated person if the establishment knowingly overserved the driver. Of course, most teen drunk drivers don’t become intoxicated in bars and restaurants, so this provision comes into play less often than New York General Obligations Law 11-101 extends liability beyond establishments licensed to serve alcohol.

Any person who unlawfully sells alcohol to or assists in procuring alcohol for and causing the intoxication of another party may be held liable for injury, death, and property damage caused by the intoxicated person. Assessment as to whether a third party may be held liable for a young drunk driver’s actions can be complicated, and this is just one example of potential third party liability. An experienced New York car accident attorney can be your best source of information about potential responsible parties, the compensation you may be entitled to, and how best to proceed with your case.

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Featured image credit: xusenru / Pixabay

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