Teenage drivers have a higher risk of getting into fatal motor vehicle accidents than most drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has data that shows in 2011, that teenagers ages 14 to 18 represented 20% of those who died in a car accident while driving with an invalid license and that speeding was a factor in 35% of fatal crashes involving teenagers. Other statistics show that teenagers did not wear seatbelts, had alcohol in their systems, and engaged in potentially risky behaviors when fatalities were involved.
Statistics in the state of Georgia show that in 2005, 136 drivers between the ages of 15 -20 died and another 193 people were killed as a result of motor vehicle wrecks involving 15 to 20 year-olds. To combat death and injuries resulting from car accidents involving teenage drivers, Georgia has a law known as Joshua’s Law that creates parameters for teenagers obtaining driver’s licenses.
Joshua’s Law requires a sixteen-year-old trying to obtain a driver’s license to complete a driver education course approved by the Department of Driver Services and also complete forty hours of supervised driving, including six hours at night. Other requirements include being enrolled in school and not being subject to various disciplinary actions at school.
In addition, Georgia implemented the Teenage & Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA),which established a three-step process for teenage drivers to learn how to drive safely. The first step is obtaining an instructional permit at age 15, where the teenage drive must be accompanied by a passenger who is at least 21 years old and has a valid C class driver’s license. The second step is to obtain an intermediate license that has restrictions regarding the time of day that the teenager can drive, prohibits the teenager from driving with passengers who are not family members for six months, and then limits the number of unrelated passengers thereafter. If the teenager can make it through the first two steps without violating any of the rules or being charged for other offenses such as DUI, eluding a police officer, or reckless driving, then the teenager can obtain a full Class C license.
Despite the laws combating reckless teenage driving,teenage drivers engage in risky behaviors, causing harm to themselves and others. Statistics show that even their teenage passengers often do the same, and have been shown to represent a significant percentage of those who are killed in motor vehicle accidents involving teenage drivers.
The passengers who are in the vehicle of a negligent teenage driver can recover against the teenage driver and even his or her parents (if the family purpose doctrine is successfully applied). Proving that the teenage driver is liable for the wreck involves examining the circumstances based on factors such as eye witness testimony, the way the wreck happened, expert accident reconstruction, the police report, and admissions or statements from the parties involved.
A passenger may seek payment from the teenage driver’s car insurance company. The minimum required amount of insurance coverage for vehicles in Georgia for bodily injury is $25,000.00 per person/$50,000.00 per accident. Thus, if the injuries involve more than one passenger and occupants of other vehicles and involve catastrophic injuries, then the available insurance on the vehicle is often insufficient to fully compensate the victims. A claim by all of the injured victims may result in the late-filers receiving no compensation. If you are involved in a collision involving multiple claimants, you should make sure that your lawyer acts swiftly to make your claim with the car insurance company.
A qualified injury attorney would make a claim for his or her client immediately and also investigate the availability of additional insurance, whether it be uninsured or underinsured coverage, umbrella coverage, or commercial or business coverage; further, the attorney would examine the possibility of other liable parties. For example, there could be a defective road design where the accident occurred or the vehicle could be a defective product.
Any passengers of the teenager’s vehicle or other drivers or occupants of other vehicles who are injured need to seek medical attention immediately to avoid a gap between the time of the collision and the time of medical treatment. Such action would avoid a causation argument by the at-fault driver and his/her insurance company. Further, obtaining medical treatment creates a written record of the victim’s injuries and enables better valuation of the case.
In sum, auto accidents involving teenage drivers are prevalent and often involve risky behaviors and catastrophic or fatal injuries. It is important that if you or a family member has been injured as a result of a teenage driver’s negligence, you obtain a qualified injury attorney. To speak to an attorney who will help you through the process of making a claim, call The Davis Injury Firm at 404-593-2620 for a consultation.
About the Author Betty Nguyen Davis is an Atlanta attorney who solely focuses her practice on plaintiff’s personal injury work. Betty is consistently recognized by her peers as a top attorney in Georgia by Super Lawyers and Georgia Trend and is highly recommended by her clients as a aggressive and persistent, yet caring and accessible attorney.