Driving is a skill, and like anything, it requires a lot of practice to get good at it. Teenagers, who have not been driving every single day for years, are twice as likely as adult drivers to get into wrecks. Within the first 18 months of getting their licenses, teenagers are four times more likely to get into a crash, and within the first three months of getting their license, they are eight times more likely to get into a crash! Interestingly, in over 35 years of practice, I have rarely seen a teen driver cause a wreck that resulted in injuries if a parent was in the car with them.

Nevertheless, this means there is a decent chance if you ever get into a wreck, there may be a teenager behind the wheel of the other car. When this happens, people who are injured in these crashes may be wondering if and how they can get compensation for the crash, especially if the teen driver is still a minor.

Thankfully, the answer is yes, you can still get compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other losses even if the driver who caused your wreck is a minor.

Who Pays When a Teen Causes a Crash?

Because Georgia and Alabama are “fault” states, that means whoever is at fault for the crash pays for the crash. Unfortunately, most teenagers (like most adults) don’t have money of their own to pay damages, so trying to get them to pay for your injuries and vehicle repair bills requires insurance.

The good news is that teenage drivers are usually covered under their parents’ auto insurance if they live in the same household as their parents, even if they are under 16 and still learning to drive. This means when they cause crashes, you can file a claim with the parents’ insurance company.

VIDEO: Gary Bruce discusses how adding a teenager to your auto insurance policy affects your rates.

If the teenager has moved out of the house and is not covered under their parents’ insurance, they should have their own auto insurance coverage, which you can file a claim against for compensation.

If the teenager who caused your crash is not covered under insurance and does not have the money to pay for your injuries and vehicle repair bills themselves, it may be possible to sue the parents for the cost of your damages. The circumstances are limited. Otherwise, you may be forced to use the uninsured motorist coverage you hopefully purchased on your policy.

Related Reading: How Much UIM Auto Insurance Do I Need?

When Are Parents Liable for Their Teen’s Crashes?

There are two doctrines that allow parents in some circumstances to be sued for wrecks caused by their children in Georgia.

  1. Parental Responsibility

As outlined in Georgia Code Section 51-2-2, this states that parents can be sued for harm their children cause whether “committed by negligence or voluntarily.” However, it does restrict parental responsibility for “malicious action” (such as if a teenager deliberately ran someone else off the road) to $10,000 plus court fees.

In these types of wrecks, in order to sue, you still generally have to prove two things first:

  • You must show that the parents either own the car or have control over the car (for example, the car may have been purchased in the teenager’s name, but the parents have the right to control when the teenager can use it).
  • You must show the teenager has a history of reckless or negligent driving and that the parents knew or should have known about it.
  1. Family-Purpose Doctrine

This states if a car is for “family use,” meaning if a teenager living in the same household regularly uses the vehicle with the parents’ permission or knowledge, and the child causes serious injuries that exceed the coverage limit of their insurance, the parents can be held fully liable. Likewise, if a teenager is running a family errand or “working” for the parent, liability extends to the parent.

Examples of Reckless/Negligent Teen Driving

According to the CDC, teen drivers are less likely to spot road dangers in time, and more likely to underestimate the danger of situations. They are also more likely to be distracted.

The top causes of teen crashes include not driving safely for road conditions (including light conditions, like while driving at night), not paying enough attention to the road and other road users (including vehicles pulled over to the side of the road), and getting distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, such as friends. That is why most states, including Georgia and Alabama, have “graduated licensing laws,” meaning new license holders have to first get a learner’s permit and then a provisional license before graduating to a full unrestricted driver’s license.

Some examples of negligent driving which support a claim of fault include:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving (for example, texting while driving, eating while driving, or talking or turning to look at friends while driving)
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Driving without a license, because they are too young or haven’t taken a driver’s education course
  • Driving with a learner’s permit without the supervision of a passenger over the age of 21
  • Driving with a provisional license between the hours of midnight and 6:00 am
  • Driving with a provisional license with restricted passengers (for example, multiple passengers under the age of 21 who are not related to you)

What Is the Unlicensed Driver Exclusion?

Some auto insurance policies will cover anyone who uses your vehicle in a crash, even if they aren’t named on the policy, because the coverage “belongs” to the vehicle rather than the driver. There are also laws in effect which CREATE coverage if the alternate outcome is that the victim of the crash goes without. A call to a lawyer can explain if that situation applies to your case.

However, you should make sure to check your coverage, because some policies DO automatically exclude unlicensed drivers, and that means if your teenager drives your vehicle and gets into a crash before they get their license, your insurance is under no obligation to cover them, and if they do, they are likely not required to provide up to the coverage limits. That leaves you on the hook for potentially all the damages in a lawsuit.

After a Wreck, Call Gary Bruce

At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we know how devastating a crash can be. We also understand how frustrating it can feel when the crash only happened because someone else was acting incredibly thoughtlessly, either by texting while driving or driving without a license.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation, and we’ll talk you through your options for getting the compensation you need.