Every year, most of the fatal car crashes involving teen drivers occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This year, advocates expect the figures to be even worse than normal.
“Parents should consider setting driving limits that are stronger than a state’s law, and enforce those limits, especially for the summer driving season,” the AAA advised
Injuries in Teen Driver Wrecks
Motorists between 15 and 20 account for only about 5 percent of the drivers on Kentucky roads. Yet these young drivers are involved in about 8 percent of the fatal collisions in the Bluegrass State. In most cases, especially if there are no older passengers in the car and the teen was “joyriding” instead of driving to work, school, or for another specific purpose, the teen causes the wreck. Some of the serious injuries in these collisions include:
- Head Injuries: Seat belts, airbags, and other restraint systems can’t absorb all the force in a high-speed vehicle collision. Head injuries are permanent, as are the symptoms of head injuries, like flashbacks, personality changes, and cerebral hemorrhage (slow bleeding on the brain).
- Broken Bones: Much like head injuries, broken bones frequently don’t completely heal. These victims usually experience some permanent loss of function, like reduced range of motions. Broken elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles are very common in serious wrecks.
- Serious Lacerations: Car wrecks don’t just scar the insides of victims. They usually scar the outside as well. It’s hard enough for adults to go through life with serious facial scars. It’s even more difficult for teens to deal with such injuries.
These car wrecks often have biological roots. In terms of brain development, which isn’t complete until age 25, the risk-reward part of the brain usually brings up the rear.
Young children chase balls into busy streets. They can’t weigh the small reward of getting the ball quickly against the high risk of a serious or fatal accident. When they get behind the wheel, teens cannot weigh the small reward of getting to Sonic faster against the significant risk of a speed-related car wreck.
Despite this lack of development, the same duty of care applies to teens and adults. If any driver of any age breaches the duty of care, and that breach causes injury, a Lexington personal injury lawyer can obtain compensation in court.
Special Emotional Issues
When teen drivers cause car wrecks, although they are legally responsible for them, the cause is at least partially beyond their control. Largely for this reason, many victims hesitate to file legal claims against teen drivers. They don’t want to blame them for wrecks. After all, pointing fingers doesn’t really help anyone.
However, civil claims don’t “blame” anyone for a wreck. Instead, these claims are focused exclusively on obtaining compensation for victims. If little Timmy forgets to water the plants, the plants will die, and he must accept the consequences of his mistake. Likewise, if older Timmy has a lapse in judgment and hits another car, people get hurt, and he must accept the consequences of his mistake.
These emotional issues are even stronger if the victim was a passenger in the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) car and knew the tortfeasor well. This hypothetical victim, just like all others, has accident-related bills to pay. The same principles of accepting responsibility apply as well.
Special Legal Issues
Parents have some responsibility here as well. Parents should restrict their teen’s driving and only let them drive more when they have proven they are ready for it.
The law reflects this responsibility. Usually, the negligent entrustment rule applies in these wrecks. Vehicle owners, usually parents, are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they knowingly allow incompetent motorists to operate their vehicles, and these motorists cause car wrecks. Evidence of incompetence includes:
- No drivers’ license,
- Inexperience driving in a certain area or in a certain situation (e.g. the teen has never driven on a freeway before),
- Driving in violation of a license restriction, like having passengers under 21 in the car,
- Inexperience operating a certain kind of vehicle, and
- A poor driving record with recent citations or at-fault accidents.
Kentucky has a minor sponsorship law. According to K.R.S. § 186.590(1), any negligence of a minor driver shall be imputed to the person who signed the minor’s drivers’ license application. That person is jointly and severally liable with the minor for any damages caused by the driver’s negligence.
“Joint and several liability” is Legalese for complete responsibility. The parent, or rather the parent’s insurance company, must pay the full amount of damages, if the teen is unable to pay.
Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Fayette County and nearby jurisdictions.