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Who is liable in a car accident caused by a teenage driver?

Under Age Driver Accidents in Missouri

Teenagers are often high-risk drivers whose lack of experience and poor decision-making can make for a dangerous situation. Teens between 16 and 19 have the greatest risk of being in a vehicle accident, and car accidents are the leading cause of death for those between 13 and 19. While most teens strive to be good drivers, they are less likely to use safety belts, are easily distracted, and can be more careless than adult drivers. When a minor gets behind the wheel, bad driving habits and mistakes, such as speeding, tailgating, and not paying attention to the other driver, can cause legal headaches for their parents if those mistakes cause an accident. 

Pursuing Compensation After a Crash Caused by a Teen Driver in Missouri

Under Missouri’s Graduated Driver License system, new drivers have to spend a set amount of time practicing with a more experienced person in the passenger seat who will offer guidance. The goal is to produce safer drivers who are comfortable on Missouri roads while “graduating” through three levels:

  • Instruction permit
  • Intermediate license
  • Full license

Regardless of which permit or license the teen driver currently has, or even if they aren’t licensed at all, they can be held liable for a car accident. If the teenager failed to use their turn signal, failed to yield, or made any type of error while driving, they can be cited and held responsible for the crash.

When dealing with a wreck specifically caused by a teenager, it’s likely their insurance company will be your main source of compensation. Sixteen-year-olds aren’t typically known for having large amounts of disposable income. However, there are cases when the teenage driver’s parents may be liable for your damages. That can be especially helpful if you have significant medical bills or could not work while recovering from the crash.

Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer After an MO Teen Driver Accident

Assuming the parent is insured, it’s likely that their insurance plan will cover children who drive the vehicle. However, that may not be the case if the teenager committed more than a simple traffic infraction during the accident and is charged criminally.

Determining exactly who is responsible for your injury is one extremely important reason to speak with an attorney. State and federal law can complicate these kinds of cases, and there are times when the legal doctrines that allow parents to be sued don’t actually apply in Missouri. For instance, under state regulations, foster parents are specifically excluded from liability for minors who cause property damage in certain circumstances.

So, how exactly do you know if the parents are responsible? Your legal counsel can investigate the circumstances leading up to the crash to fully determine liability. The party who legally owes you damages could be the teen driver, their parents, their insurer, or someone else entirely, such as a third driver in a multi-vehicle collision.

What You Need to Prove

  • A legal guardian or biological parent actually has custody of the minor driver
  • The guardian or parent was either aware the child was a danger on the road or should have reasonably been expected to be aware of that fact
  • The specific act of negligence that caused the crash, which may require going through video footage, eyewitness statements, accident scene reconstruction, employment logs, and other evidence

For example, if the teen has a history of taking the family’s car without permission and getting into crashes, the person responsible for raising that teen may be held liable. The bottom line is that you need to speak with a lawyer who has handled Missouri car accident cases involving minor drivers.

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