Car accidents are always unexpected. When they cause injuries, they usually turn a victim’s life upside down, especially if they’re seriously injured. But what happens when an underage driver causes an accident that results in injuries? Such was the case in recent months in two Northern California cities, Woodland and Redwood City. In both instances, teen drivers who were 13 and 17 years old respectively crashed into other cars causing major injuries and deaths.
First, it's important to define who an underage driver is. In most states in the United States, the legal age for driving is 16 years old. However, some states allow individuals as young as 14 years old to obtain a learner's permit. Therefore, anyone below the legal driving age is considered an underage driver.
When an underage driver causes a car accident that results in injuries, the driver, and their parents or guardians may be held liable for the damages and injuries caused. The driver can face criminal charges, and the parents or guardians can be held responsible for the damages caused by the underage driver under the legal theory of negligent entrustment.
Negligent entrustment is a legal doctrine that holds individuals responsible for negligently allowing someone else to use their property in a way that causes harm to others. When it comes to car accidents, negligent entrustment can apply to parents or guardians who allow their underage child to drive a vehicle, knowing that the child is not competent or experienced enough to drive safely.
In some states, parents or guardians can be held strictly liable for the damages caused by their underage child. This means that they can be held responsible for the damages, regardless of whether they were aware of the child's incompetence or not.
Underage drivers who cause car accidents can also face criminal charges, depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries sustained. Criminal charges can include reckless driving, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and vehicular manslaughter.
The consequences of a car accident caused by an underage driver can be severe. In addition to facing criminal charges and civil liability for damages and injuries, the underage driver can also face other consequences, such as losing their driver's license or being required to attend a driver's education program.
“The victim of a car accident caused by an underage driver has the right to pursue compensation for their injuries and damages. They can file a personal injury claim against the underage driver and their parents or guardians to recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the accident. This holds even if the child isn’t charged as an adult in criminal court,” said attorney J.J. Dominguez of The Dominguez Firm. “It’s crucial the victim or surviving family members contact an experienced car accident lawyer right away,” he concluded.
In short, a driver’s age doesn’t excuse them from facing consequences for their negligent or reckless driving. When they put others at risk, they and their parents can face criminal and civil penalties for their actions.
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