What Happens if a Minor Crashes a Car?

June 6, 2022 | Article by Chain | Cohn | Clark staff

What Happens if a Minor Crashes a Car?

Teenage drivers, specifically ages 16-19, have a higher risk of motor vehicle crashes than any other age group. According to CDC’s transportation safety statistics, almost 2,400 teens between 13-19 years old were killed in crashes in the U.S. in 2019. 

If your teenage driver gets into a car accident under 18 years of age, you may be responsible for any damages they incur or injuries they cause. For 16 year-old car accidents and 17 year-old car accidents where there is a legally licensed driver who is not yet a legal adult, the legal proceedings can be quite complicated.

The best thing you can do is prepare your teen for the road and be there for them if something goes wrong. 

Teenage Drivers

What are some of the factors that put teen drivers at such a high risk? Here are eight “danger zones” that CDC recommends you pay attention to with your driver:

  • Inexperience – As we all know it takes some time to get the hang of a new skill. Teens are more likely to make decision errors or underestimate dangerous situations when they are starting out on the road. This makes them more likely to be involved in an accident than older drivers.
  • Distracted Driving – Teens have busy minds and a lot to think about. If they get distracted–on their phone, by another driver, or the music they’re listening to–they may not properly respond to the road situation ahead of them. Distracted driving accidents are some of the most common that exist across all locations. 
  • Driving With Passengers – Having others in the car, especially more teens, can increase the risk of getting into a car crash. Having your friends around you can be fun, but it is often distracting and results in a lack of attention on the road. 
  • Driving Impaired – Regardless of age, substances such as alcohol and marijuana can negatively affect someone’s ability to function a motor vehicle.
  • Driving Tired – Driving drowsy is often compared to driving under the influence of illegal substances because it slows your reaction time and negatively affects your judgment. 
  • Driving at Night – Driving when it’s dark out limits your ability to see and is also correlated with other factors, such as driving drowsy, impaired, or distracted. 
  • Reckless Driving – Speeding, tailgating, ignoring traffic laws, and aggressive driving tactics all contribute to the chances of being in an accident.
  • Driving Without a Seat Belt – Teens have the lowest seat belt use rates compared to other age groups. Especially passengers who are riding in the back of their friend’s car, which drastically increases the risk of serious injury during a collision. 

These are some of the leading causes of car accidents among teens, but some are unavoidable. Driving with passengers or driving at night might be required in certain situations. Knowing this, it’s important to still be prepared to handle a collision even though you trust your teen’s driving ability. 

What Happens After a Teen Car Crash?

Regardless of what caused the auto accident, there are some important things you will want to do if your minor calls you saying they were in a car crash. Of course there will be variations in the process depending on the severity of the accident, but here is some general advice on how you should proceed after the accident.

At the Scene of the Car Accident

Upon hearing about the vehicle crash you should communicate the following things to your teen:

    • Ensure Safety – Make sure everybody is out of harm’s way and safe from another accident.
    • Call the Authorities – Assuming you are the first person your child calls, you may need to call 911. Ask if there is anybody injured at the scene so you can give a better explanation to emergency responders. Even if nobody is injured, car accidents are still expected to be reported. 
  • Stay Neutral on Fault – Don’t have your child admit fault or blame the other person involved in the crash. Anything they say can cause an issue during a later investigation.
  • Gather Contact Information – Although they shouldn’t speak on fault, encourage your child to talk to the other driver and exchange information. This includes names, contact info, and insurance companies/policies. If possible, have your child get a photo of the other driver’s license and insurance card to ensure accuracy. Also have them collect contact information from any witnesses who might have seen what happened.
  • Collect Evidence – On top of taking photos to exchange information, have your child take pictures of the entire car accident scene. People who were involved, license plates, vehicle damage, the surrounding area, traffic signs, all these details will help move the investigation forward. Videos will also work as evidence. 
  • Take Notes – Have them use their phone to take notes on more exact details. Information about the other car, names, location, date and time, the speed they were going, the weather, and road conditions.

Once you’ve properly advised your teen, there are some things that you can do to help the process move along:

  • Call Your Insurance – You will want to contact your insurance agent and inform them about what happened with your teen. The quicker you do this, the sooner you will be able to safely and legally return your child to the road.
  • Call a Tow Truck – If the vehicle is not in a drivable condition after the accident you should contact a towing service to pick up your child’s vehicle. Also reach out to a mechanic and have them perform a full inspection to ensure it is safe to drive.
  • Retrieve the Accident Report – As soon as you can, get a copy of the accident report from the police office. This should include the name and contact information of the officer that arrived. Their report will be helpful if your case goes to the courtroom. 

After You Leave the Scene

The list of things you need to do after an accident only continues after your child leaves the scene of the accident. Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself for any upcoming claims:

  • Talk to Your Child – Speak to your teen and explain that the insurance company will handle the business from there on. Your child does not need to and should not take any further action without your input.
  • Don’t Sign – Ensure that neither you or your child sign any paperwork from the other driver’s attorney or insurance agent. Leave this to your insurance company. 
  • Be Involved – Help your teen through some of the tasks that may be new to them. If they have a call with the insurance company, walk them through it and ensure they give accurate information.
  • Be Caring – Car accidents can be traumatic. Although your first response might be anger if there is damage to your property, remember that your teen needs your support. They are probably more unhappy with what happened and will require your help to get back to normal.
  • Hire an Attorney if Necessary – If your situation is complicated and/or involves medical care that must be compensated, you may want to contact a car accident lawyer for legal guidance. If you decide you need one–the sooner you call, the better. 
  • File a Car Accident Claim – Help your child file a claim online to report the crash. This should not take very long but will be made easier if you work together and use the information your child gathered (or remembers). 

This may seem like a lot of steps but things move very quickly in the moment. Take your time and proceed slowly to make sure you don’t make any mistakes. It can help to walk your child through some of these steps when they first learn to drive so it’s not completely new to them if they ever do experience a crash. 

California Laws for Car Accidents Involving Minors

Many states across the U.S. have passed laws which hold parents and guardians responsible for their teen drivers. California is one of the states to uphold this legal principle, termed vicarious liability.

Will I Have Coverage if My Teenager Wrecked My Car?

Whether or not the teen driver has a license, the parent may be held responsible if they have given their child explicit or implied permission to drive a vehicle. Your coverage will likely depend on your specific plan. 

Can You Sue a Minor for a Car Accident?

According to California law, all motorists are held to the same standard. Each licensed driver is expected to uphold a duty of reasonable care to their passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. This means that teenage drivers cannot use inexperience or age as an excuse for negligent or reckless driving. 

If a teenage driver fails to uphold their duty of care by driving recklessly or negligently, they are liable to be sued for any injuries or damage they cause. While they may be held accountable, the damages of the accident will still fall on you as their parent or legal guardian. 

What Happens if You Have an Accident in the First Year of Driving?

California drivers under 18 are issued a provisional license. In the first 12 months of having that provisional license, teens are not allowed to drive other teens unless they are accompanied by a driving instructor, licensed driver over 25, or parent/guardian. These teens are allowed to drive their siblings to school in the first year of driving, but no friends without supervision. If a teen gets into an accident during the first year they may have their license suspended for a short time depending on the circumstances. If they are at fault or were doing something illegal, the consequences may be more drastic.

Hire a Chain | Cohn | Clark Car Accident Lawyer in Bakersfield, California

Our car accident law firm has been representing residents like you in Kern County and the Greater California Area around Bakersfield for decades. If you are held responsible for an accident involving a minor, call us as soon as possible to get a consultation on your case. Especially if the insurance companies are attempting to deny claims or assign fault to your minor when they were not to blame.

Contact our Bakersfield car accident lawyers for more information on how to proceed.