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Who is Liable for a Student Driving Accident?

by  on  Car Accidents & Motor Vehicle Collisions

Driving is one of the most powerful and dangerous skills a human can acquire in our society. Learning this skill is something we usually assign to teens who are still developing judgment and learning to coordinate mental operations with their physical movements. The risks of an inexperienced teen driver causing an accident can be incredibly high, especially in a high-traffic area like Denver.

So what happens when the actions of a student driver trigger an accident? Is the driving school liable? Can the parents be held responsible? Is a driver with a learner’s permit covered under insurance? What if a teen driver has a license but is driving a parent’s car? Read on for more information about liability in student driver cases and how to protect yourself and your teen.

The Risks with Teen Drivers

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the crash rate for teen drivers is almost four times as high as that for older drivers. These statistics are based on the number of collisions per miles driven, so the fact that teen drivers may be on the road more than others because of frequent trips to school, work, and social activities does not account for the high accident rate.

Essentially, many of the problems with teen drivers boil down to the fact that they are inexperienced and immature. The lack of maturity often leads young drivers to engage in risky habits such as driving too fast for conditions or driving while distracted by cell phones or passengers. Some drive too aggressively or don’t realize the dangers of driving while fatigued.

Their lack of experience makes it more difficult for teen drivers to recognize many hazards. Once they do recognize a problem, such as slick roads caused by bad weather, they lack the knowledge of how to deal with hazards safely and effectively. A lack of judgment can lead to a rear-end collision in the blink of an eye, and a moment of distraction looking at a cellphone can cause a teen driver to turn the wheel just enough to run into a phone pole or even cause a head-on collision.

Insurance for Student Drivers

For all the above reasons, insurance companies recommend that parents add their student drivers to the family auto policy as soon as they obtain their learner’s permit. After all, an unlicensed student driver can be found at fault for an accident to the same degree as a licensed driver. 

Adding that driver to the insurance policy ensures that the policy will cover losses. However, even if a driver has not specifically been added to the policy, if they are driving the vehicle with the permission of the owner, the insurer is generally supposed to cover the damage that driver causes.

Each insurance company has their own rules about when to add teen drivers to policies, so it is wise to check with your insurer as soon as possible, and be sure to ask whether there are discounts for good grades or completing safety courses.

Graduated Drivers’ License Laws

Because teen drivers pose such a great risk to themselves and others on the road, all states have now adopted some form of graduated drivers license program. These laws enable young drivers to practice driving on the road with supervision before receiving their licenses and place restrictions on driving after a teen receives a new license.

For instance, in Colorado, teens are not permitted to carry passengers under the age of 21 during the first six months after receiving their license (unless a licensed adult driver is also in the vehicle). They are also not permitted to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless required for work or school. These restrictions can help teen drivers from engaging in bad habits or falling prey to distractions. 

Unfortunately, parents do not always enforce these rules and may even encourage young drivers to violate them so they can drive others around and save the parents from being inconvenienced. In that situation, it can be particularly easy to hold a parent responsible for an accident caused by their teen driver.

Liability for Student Driver Accidents

If a student or new teen driver is involved in an accident, it is essential to investigate carefully to determine the parties who may be responsible for causing the accident. In most situations, the actions of several individuals combine to create the conditions leading to the collision.

Insurance companies and courts could hold the following parties liable for a student driver accident:

  • An instructor who was not paying sufficient attention or who taught incorrectly
  • A driving school who hired or failed to train the instructor
  • The owner of the vehicle that was not properly maintained
  • Any driver involved who committed acts of negligence such as reading a text message or driving too fast
  • A property owner who created a dangerous condition or block visibility on the road
  • A host who served alcohol to an underaged driver

Lawyers can help accident victims recover even if their own conduct contributed to the cause of the accident. Colorado’s comparative fault rule allows someone to receive compensation from other responsible parties unless their actions were 50% or more to blame for causing the accident.

The Next Steps After a Student Driving Accident in Colorado

It is crucial to collect evidence as soon as possible after any car accident, but this task is especially important in accidents involving teen and student drivers because so many different parties could be held liable. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a collision involving a young driver, talk to the skilled Denver car accident lawyers at Levine Law to learn how we can provide advice and assistance right away.

And if you have a teen driver in the family, we invite you to check out our Teen Driving Guide for helpful information to keep your new driver safe.