Am I Liable if My Teen Driver Gets in an Accident?
In short, the answer is generally yes. Under California law, an adult is held liable if their teen driver is involved in a car accident. Since California is a fault state, the responsibilities of an accident fall to the individuals involved. Having a teen driver that is involved in an automobile collision can be a difficult situation depending on the specifics of the accident. The first step in understanding who is liable is to revisit the laws put in place for teen drivers in the state of California.
California Teen Driving Laws
There are many different restrictions in place for teen drivers in the state of California. These restrictions are set in order to create safety for other drivers on the road as a study done by the CDC showed that teens, ages 16-19, have the highest rate of car accidents.
In California, all drivers under the age of eighteen have a provisional license. What this means is that there are certain rules in place that must be followed by underage drivers. Those rules are, but are not limited to:
- Within the first year of a teen receiving their license, they must drive with a licensed parent or guardian at all times. A licensed driver over the age of 25 is also a suitable alternative.
- If an underage driver is driving between the hours of 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM, they are in need of the qualified individuals mentioned previously.
- A driver under the age of eighteen is not allowed to use any electronic device, even if it is hands free. Bluetooth devices are not permitted, neither are cell phones.
- A driver under the age of eighteen needs a qualified driver in the car if they are driving an individual under the age of twenty.
Although these restrictions seem cut and dry, there are some exceptions to the rules set forth for drivers under the age of eighteen. It is acceptable for a teen driver with a provisional license to not have a licensed parent or guardian present while driving if they obtain a note from their parent or guardian explaining why an exception is needed. In addition to a reason, this note needs to include the dates that the exception is allowed, with a start and end date listed.
Even though these laws may feel unnecessary at times, it is crucial that they are followed, especially in the case of a car accident. Establishing fault when a vehicle collision occurs can often be difficult, but determining negligence is typically the first step taken. The term negligence, with respect to operating a motor vehicle, is used to describe any action that defers a driver from driving in a way that is reasonably safe.
Under the California Vehicle Code, parents or guardians are held liable for teens should they get in a car accident. The reason a parent is liable for damages is because they sign the teen’s initial driver’s license application, which establishes legal responsibility for that teen whenever they become licensed. In addition, that same code shows an adult is liable whenever they express permission for a teen to drive.
If your teen has been involved in a car accident, there may be legal actions available to you. Contact our team of experienced attorneys today at Ghozland Law Firm for a free, no-obligation consultation.