It is a known fact teenagers are reckless drivers and contribute immensely to motor vehicle accidents. They often cause crashes due to distractions, alcohol impairment, speeding, and other forms of negligence. These accidents often end in injuries or fatalities.
When a teenage car accident happens, there are victims and fault parties. In an accident involving adult drivers, the fault party is outrightly responsible for the damages incurred. But when a teen driver is the fault party, the case becomes more complicated.
This is because a minor will not have the resources to pay compensation in a civil lawsuit. The question then is, who pays for a teenage car accident in Indianapolis? This article will shed light on this question. For a more in-depth answer, contact our auto accident attorneys at Stewart|Phelps|Wood.
How Often Do Teenage Car Accidents Happen?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car accidents are the second-leading cause of death of U.S. teens. The center reports that in 2019, there were about 2,400 fatal crashes involving teenagers. About 258,000 teens landed in hospital emergency departments to treat various injuries.
These numbers show the high-risk teens pose on the road. Some of the risk factors associated with teenagers include:
- Driving while impaired
- Drowsy driving
- Driving during nighttime and weekends
- Distracted driving
- Lack of seatbelt usage
- Driving with teen passengers
The biggest problem with teenage car accidents is that they do not only endanger themselves. They endanger other drivers and pedestrians on the roadway. This is why other road users must know who should pay compensation in car accidents involving minors.
What Is Parental Responsibility Under Indiana Law?
Indiana practices strict parental responsibility laws. The law protects drivers in car accidents involving teenagers by making their parents financially responsible for losses. The Indiana Code Section 9-24-9-4 provides that parents who sign their children’s driver’s license application will be liable for all the damages caused by that minor.
This includes property damages and personal injury. Section 34-31-4-1 provides that for each category, the responsible parent would cover $5,000 worth of claims. A parent under this law is the custodial parent of the teenager. It means the parent is living with the minor.
Thus, for a parent to be held liable for a teenage car accident:
- The teenager must be in the custody of the parent or guardian
- The teenager must be living with the parent and guardian when the accident happened
It means that even if a parent by law has custody, but the child does not live with them, they are not liable for damages. Similarly, a teenager who is emancipated from their parents or is estranged will not benefit from their auto insurance policy when an accident happens. In this case, they will be financially liable to the victim and can get tried as an adult from a crash-related criminal charge.
What Are the Restrictions on the Liability of Parents?
The Indiana parental responsibility law is not all-encompassing. It has some restrictions on the condition of liability stemming from a teenage car accident. They include:
- The harm suffered by the victim must be a direct consequence of the intentional and reckless actions of the teenager. The minor must also have knowingly caused the injury.
- The parents’ liability cannot go beyond $5,000 in actual damages.
Actual damages are also known as economic damages. They are calculated to a fixed dollar amount and include medical bills, vehicle repair costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses. It means that in teenage car accidents, parents and guardians will not pay for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
Furthermore, Indiana allows parents or guardians who sign a minor’s driver’s request form to remove themselves from paying damages. They can do this by submitting a written request. Once the request gets approved, the parent or guardian is exempted from any and every liability.
The driver’s license or permit of the minor would then get suspended immediately. The law also exempts the parent or guardian from this liability once the teenager is 18-year-old. Find out more about the request letter from an Indianapolis auto accident lawyer.
Get Help From Indianapolis Most Experienced Accident Lawyers!
Victims of car accidents with a teenager as the fault driver often think they cannot recover compensation. This thought is fallacious, as Indiana law ensures you get compensated for your losses. Our car accident lawyers at Stewart|Phelps|Woods know all there is about recovering compensation in a teenage car accident. We can help you get what the law guarantees, and not a penny less. Contact us to get started on your case.