Are Drivers With Learner’s Permits Liable in a Car Accident?

April 26, 2022
Are Drivers With Learner’s Permits Liable in a Car Accident?

Teen Drivers Can Face Serious Consequences for Causing a Car Accident

Each year, new drivers are responsible for a disproportionate percentage of serious car accidents in the U.S. Like any new skill, it requires practice to master driving, but in the interim teens may make costly mistakes. Negligent behavior, like excessive speeding and texting while driving can turn a fender bender into a fatality. While plenty of experienced drivers engage in these bad habits, they are more common amongst young drivers. When a teen who only has their learner's permit causes an accident, this can leave the other driver wondering how to proceed in a car accident lawsuit.  Liability is complicated and best determined by an attorney with experience handling personal injury claims. At Dolman Law Group, we know how to handle a nuanced case and recover the appropriate damages for our clients so they can truly recover.

New Drivers Are Responsible for More Than Their Fair Share of Car Crashes

Unfortunately, the stereotype is true: teen drivers are a higher accident risk. The combination of inexperience and distracted driving can make them a threat to themselves and other drivers. Teens are especially vulnerable during the summer when they may be traveling long distances with less supervision or have the distraction of added passengers. In Florida alone, teen drivers were involved in nearly 40,000 crashes in 2020; while they make up 5% of the state's driving population, they caused more than double their share of the car accidents.

Car Accidents Caused by Teen Drivers Can Result in Devastating Injuries

Car accident rates among teen drivers are at their all-time high during the first year of being licensed as they adjust to the rules of the road.  This is reflected in the injuries sustained by people in this age group; according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, teenagers between 15 and 17 account for more than60% of pediatric spinal fractures”, most commonly sustained in car accidents. Other common car accident injuries may leave teen drivers, their passengers, or other motorists permanently disabled or disfigured. The cost of medical bills alone can cripple a family's finances for years. Because the impact of teen driving negligence can be so destructive, we ease them into that privilege.

Understanding the Purpose of Learner's Permits for Teen Drivers

Securing a learner's permit is a milestone for many teens, and with this freedom comes a need for accountability. It stands to reason that teens with very limited driving experience will be more prone to mistakes, hence why the law requires them to be supervised. A learner's permit is available to teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17 as a way to ease them into the responsibilities of operating a vehicle amongst the public. There are a number of restrictions placed on new drivers, such as the time of day they may operate a vehicle and the number of passengers they can transport. The adult supervisor is meant to curb teens' distracted driving and other risky behaviors before they become dangerous patterns. In effect, a learner's permit acts as a probationary period to ensure that they will become safe drivers before giving them the full benefits of a driver's license. 

What Happens When a Teen Driver Causes a Car Accident?

While we do afford drivers with learner's permits some leniency, they can still face significant consequences for their careless behavior in civil cases. Consequences for the negligent teen may involve points on their license; as a deterrent for careless behavior, penalties for driving infractions are typically tougher. Different infractions have corresponding points values and accumulating a certain number results in a delay in receiving their driver's license. 

Do Teen Drivers Have to Pay for Car Accident Damages?

As for a teen's role in compensating accident victims, drivers with learner's permits are under 18 and likely qualify under their parent's Personal Injury Protection, which is required by Florida law. Personal Injury Protection covers $10,000 in both injuries and economic damage. When teens start driving, notify your insurance so they are aware of the new driver under your policy. In short, teen drivers are subject to consequences for their negligent behavior, but the financial compensation will likely come from the insurance of the car owner or supervising driver.

Parents May Share Liability With Teen Drivers in a Car Accident 

Let's say you let your teenager borrow your car to go to the grocery store and have their older sibling, a 22-year-old in college, accompany them. On their way, they break the speed limit and wind up rear-ending another car. The driver of the other car hits their head on the wheel and suffers a traumatic brain injury. Because they were driving your car and a minor in your household, their no-fault PIP coverage should apply first. However, traumatic brain injuries can be expensive and recovery can be difficult, so the other driver may file a lawsuit that seeks damages beyond the scope of what is covered by their PIP. In that case, the parent would use their insurance to compensate the other driver, but they'd be less likely to be personally penalized for the teen's behavior because they ensured a qualified licensed driver was in the passenger seat. If a parent fails to supervise their child who only has a learner's permit, they may share in the liability in terms of “fault.”

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me Recover Damages After a Car Accident With a Teen Driver?   

You have the right to be properly compensated for your injuries when they were caused by someone else's negligence. However, the process of filing a claim against a driver with a learner's permit may prove complex, which is why you need a personal injury attorney to back you up.   A personal injury attorney will work with you and the driver's parents' insurance provider to negotiate a fair settlement that reflects the nature and permanence of your injuries and property damage. We will provide medical experts to testify to your injuries, demonstrate the driver's negligence, and identify any problematic patterns of behavior to support your claim. You may be eligible for damages that reimburse you for medical bills, lost wages, and even emotional distress. Insurance companies may try to guilt you or intimidate you out of the damages you rightfully deserve, which is why you need a seasoned advocate on your side.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Car Accident Lawsuit

Car accidents can cause untold physical and emotional trauma and may involve many unexpected expenses. While you may feel hesitant to pursue damages against a driver who is still learning to navigate the roads, insurance is there for a reason. Their inexperience and remorse does not diminish the harm you have suffered. If you're suffering from the effects of a serious car accident caused by a driver with a learner's permit, you may be confused about what that means for your ability to recover compensatory damages. The lawyers of Dolman Law Group have seen it all and we are prepared to deal with the complexities of your claim.  We understand that a case involving a convoluted path to compensation may be intimidating, but you don't have to navigate your car accident claim alone; We have built a results-based reputation for exceptional service. Our clients are kept in the loop from the very beginning through our policy of clear communication. We'll start with a free first consultation and end with recovering the compensation you need to get your life back on track. Give us a call any time at (833) 55-CRASH for auto accidents, or contact our offices at (727) 451-6900. You can also send us an email on our contact us page.  

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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