Determining Liability in Teen Car Accidents

Determining Liability in Teen Car Accidents

One of the most exciting things for teenagers across the United States, when they turn 16, is getting a driver’s license. Being able to legally drive a car gives teens a sense of freedom, but we can all agree to the fact that they are not the most accident-averse or careful drivers on the road. If you look at the statistics, the leading cause of death of teenagers in America is car accidents.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 2,270 teenagers, belonging to the age group 16-19, were killed in auto accidents and more than 221,300 were treated in emergency departments across the United States in 2014. This indicates that on average, 6 teens died in motor vehicle accidents every day during that year. Moreover, the rate of fatal accidents in teenage boys was found to be double than female teenage drivers.

Now the question is: Does the law treat teen drivers differently as compared to adult drivers, when they are responsible for an accident? Let’s find out.

The Same Standards Apply to Teen Drivers as All Other Motorists

Whether you are an adult in your 40s or a teenager who just turned 16 and got your driver’s license, the same legal standards apply to you, regardless of your age. Any licensed driver who drives a vehicle must know that they have a duty of care for all those sharing the road with them, whether they are pedestrians, motorcyclists, truck and car drivers, or bicyclists. If someone gets injured because of your reckless or careless driving, you will be liable to pay for lost income, medical expenses, and other losses incurred due their negligence.

However, not all liability falls on the teen driver; parents and guardians are also held liable for their negligence.

Understanding Vicarious Liability

It is a legal set of guidelines that applies on parents/guardians, and holds them financially responsible for their children’s negligence. In other words, parents are responsible for the actions of their children, and based on this notion, they are held liable for accidents caused by their children.

There are some conditions when vicarious liability is applied on parents. They are:

  • The license is issued to the teen driver after the parent or guardian signed an agreement stating that they will share liability for the damages if their child caused an accident.
  • They signed a similar agreement when the accident happened.
  • Both at the time of the accident and the time of licensing.

However, the rules and regulations pertaining to vicarious liability may differ from state to state.

How Parents and Guardians can Limit their Liability?

  • Get sufficient insurance to cover damages from an accident
  • Have your child purchase their own vehicle, under their own name
  • Not allow your child to get a driver’s license until they are 18 years old
  • Make sure that the teen driver understands their ‘duty of care’ on the road, as well as the possible consequences of driving a car.



Regardless of how careful we are in life, all of us make mistakes, and so does our children. If your teenage child has been in a car accident and you want legal counsel on how to settle the matter, you should contact the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. at (847) 395-2200 or online today to schedule a consultation.

Call today for a free consultation

(847) 395-2200