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Parental Responsibility for Intoxicated Teen Drivers

Intoxicated Teen DriversAlthough teen drinking and driving is a real concern, there is good news when it comes to teen DUIs. According to a report by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, fatalities caused by underage DUI offenders have dropped 83% since 1982.

While it’s good to know that education efforts are making an impact, it’s little comfort if you or someone you love is injured by an intoxicated teen driver. Here are the underage DUI laws in Massachusetts and how they affect collecting damages against a teen driver.

Underage DUI

Like the rest of the country, the legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21 and consumption of alcohol by anyone under this age is against the law. The only exception to this rule is consumption on private premises with the permission of a guardian. Even then, parents and guardians may be held liable if their underage charges commit criminal or negligent acts while intoxicated.

Teen drivers are inexperienced and already a risk on the road. This is why parents pay higher insurance premiums if they have teens added to their policy and invest in driver’s education for their children to lower those costs. Once alcohol is added to the scenario, teen drivers can become downright dangerous. A combination of impairment and inexperience is indeed a deadly mix. For this reason, penalties for an underage DUI are much stiffer.

If tests show a teenager has a blood alcohol content of 0.02% or above, they will likely be charged with underage DUI. For adults, that threshold increases to 0.08%. Other charges that may arise from this offense include minor in possession or child endangerment against any enabling adults.

Parental Liability

Often, DUI accidents by teen drivers injure or even cause the wrongful death of others one the road. Who can be held responsible for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering?

In civil cases, parents are vicariously liable when teenagers commit negligent acts. Since teenagers are not adults and cannot be sued directly, any action against them is through their parents. Parents can also be held directly responsible if they supplied the alcohol and failed to supervise their underage drinker. There are cases where parents are held liable for their teenager’s negligence, but also their own.

As with other auto accident claims, collisions involving DUI are often settled through the insurance company. Teenagers are covered on their parent’s auto insurance policy and that is where the negotiation and settlement process typically starts. If damages exceed policy limits, then parents’ personal assets can be garnished to ensure victims receive full compensation.

If you face DUI-related injuries due to a careless teen driver, contact Mazow | McCullough, P.C. to schedule a free case evaluation. We can help you determine what avenues of compensation may be available to you and how to pursue the full and fair financial restitution you deserve.

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