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Teen Driving

Teen Driving Accidents

John Maher talks with Rob Mazow and Robert Hartigan from the personal injury law firm Mazow McCullough about teen driving accidents. They look at the liability of teen drivers, talk about restrictions on teen drivers, and cover when parents may be liable for their teenager’s accidents.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher and I’m here today with Rob Mazow and Robert Hartigan of the law firm Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Today, we’re going to be talking about teen driving accidents. Rob and Robert, welcome.

Rob Mazow: Thanks, John.

Robert Hartigan: Hey John, how are you?

Differences Between Teen and Adult Driving Accidents

Teens Injure Others in a Car AccidentJohn: Good. If a teen is involved in a driving accident, is the case handled in the same way as an adult driver? Or is it a little different?

Rob: Like anything, it depends on how old the teen is. If it’s a 13 year old or somebody who doesn’t have his driver’s license or her driver’s license, then yes, it’s going to be handled differently. There’s going to be insurance issues. There’s going to be criminal issues. It’s going to be all sorts of things.

But if we’re talking about a teenager who has had their license and is somebody who is driving without any other substances or there’s no criminal issues involved, then it’s generally going to be handled the same way. Clearly a teen isn’t going to have the same kind of driving experience than an adult who’s had a license for quite a lot longer. But for the most part, if we can establish that the teen was negligent, didn’t drive with due care, then it’s handled just like any other negligence case. If they’ve caused damages and caused injury to our client, then we’re going to seek compensation through the insurance company of the vehicle of the car that the teen was driving.

Accidents With Junior Operator Licenses

John: Are there any aspects of insurance requirements that might be different with a teen driver who is maybe on their junior operator license?

Rob: Well, I have three children who’ve all had their junior operator license and the moment that they got the license, I put them on my car insurance. They need to be put on the household policy and they need to be put on the driver’s insurance. And as again, speaking from experience, if you have the ability to increase your insurance limits, you should do so because statistically, because the teenagers have less experience driving, they might get involved in a car accident. It might be their fault. You’re going to want to make sure you’ve got insurance in the first part, but also enough insurance to cover just in case they cause some problems.

Restrictions on Teen Drivers

John: Anything else in terms of a junior operator license and the restrictions that a driver has if they’re involved in an accident? Maybe they were doing something that they weren’t supposed to be doing, like driving after midnight or driving with friends in their car or things like that.

Rob: There’s a reason in Massachusetts why they have these kinds of restrictions where it didn’t have the same requirements when we were younger. It’s because there’s a belief, and it’s probably true that a young driver is going to be more distracted than somebody with more experience. And that’s why for a period of time, they can’t have anybody but their parents in the car with them or their siblings. And after that, they can’t have more than a certain amount of kids in the car.

And the reason for that is because they get distracted. It’s not going to affect insurance coverage per se, but it’s certainly going to be a problem with the courts if somebody’s driving on their JOL on their junior operators license and they have somebody who’s not their sibling in the car and they cause an accident. Well, whether or not they’re negligent is one thing, but they’re going to end up in the court system on a criminal matter because of the violation of the JOL and that’s going to cause a problem for their future insurance coverage and their future insurance premiums are going to go up.

Passengers Injured in Teen Driving Accidents

John: What if my teenager was involved in a car accident, but they weren’t the ones who were at fault? Are there any issues there? Or anything different with the way that a case is handled?

Rob: Do you mean that if they’re injured if they’re a passenger in a vehicle?

John: Yeah. Let’s say that they were driving, but they weren’t at fault, but that yeah, they were injured in an accident.

Rob: Well, just like if they were an adult and if they came to see us and they had medical issues, we would be able to get them the same kind of compensation that we would be able to get an adult. We’d be able to get them compensation for their medical bills and their medical treatment, we’d be able to get them compensation for the pain and suffering of going through the accident.

If they have a job and they lose wages, we’d be able to get them compensated for their lost wages. If it’s been something much more serious where they’ve lost a limb or God forbid a loss of life, we’d be able to get compensation for their next of kin for the pain and suffering and the loss of that child.

Parental Liability for Teen Drivers

John: Robert, any final thoughts on accidents that are involving teenage drivers?

Robert: Sometimes we get cases where it was a teenage driver that caused the accident and there’s a claim against the teenage driver and their parents or a parent. That can present a number of issues for the parent or parents of the driver in situations like that.

John: Where the person might be coming after, not just the driver, but because you’re the parents, maybe you let that kid drive or something like that and so they’re coming after you as well.

Robert: Exactly. For example, if the teenage driver had a history of violations, accidents, maybe they had some medical issues, there still could be a claim against the parents for negligently allowing the teenage driver to operate the vehicle.

Contact Legal Help After an Accident With a Teen Driver

John: All right. Well, that’s really great information. Rob and Robert, thanks again for speaking with me today.

Rob: Thanks, John.

Robert: Thank you.

John: And for more information, you can visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call (855) 693-9084.

Understanding Negligent Entrustment in Personal Injury Cases

Teens Injure Others in a Car AccidentIt’s not uncommon for people to let a family member or friend borrow your car for a quick errand or as a small favor. Most people assume that the other person driving can do so in a safe manner, and in most instances, the driver returns the vehicle with no issue. However, this isn’t always the case.

Drivers in borrowed cars can be just as careless or negligent as drivers in their own vehicles and are at equal risk of getting into a car accident. However, if the person borrowing their friend or family member’s vehicle is intoxicated, unlicensed, or otherwise cannot safely drive the vehicle, the risk is significantly higher.

Here’s what you should understand about negligent entrustment in personal injury cases, and how to get the experienced legal help you need in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after a devastating accident.

What Is Negligent Entrustment?

Motor vehicle owners are responsible for ensuring that the vehicle they own is only operated safely and legally. Negligent entrustment occurs when a vehicle owner allows another person to drive their car, knowing they are or are likely unable to operate the vehicle safely.

This means that if you were hurt by a careless driver operating someone else’s vehicle, you may not only be able to hold the driver responsible for any damages that result from that collision, but also potentially the vehicle owner as well. If you choose to pursue compensation, you may have multiple defendants involved in your case. If the vehicle was faulty in some way, it’s possible to even have a third defendant – the vehicle’s manufacturer.

How to Prove Negligent Entrustment

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there are three elements to negligent entrustment. Here’s what you’ll need to prove in order to successfully pursue compensation from the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident that injured you.

1. Evidence That Indicates the Person Who Drove the Car Was Unfit to Do So

First, you must establish that the at-fault driver of the borrowed vehicle was not fit to safely operate it. For example, in cases of drinking and driving, it may be relatively easy to show that the driver was inebriated and unfit to drive. In other cases, however, establishing the incompetence of the at fault driver may be more challenging.

You may be able to show a pattern of recklessness by presenting the at fault party‘s poor driving record if they have a history of traffic infractions. Or, if the vehicle operator has a medical condition or takes a medication that makes it dangerous for them to drive, you may be able to provide evidence of this.

Then, you must also be able to illustrate that the injuries caused in the accident were directly the result of the established incompetence. For example, if you suffered severe whiplash from the accident, you’ll need to be able to show that you had no preexisting conditions and that the injury was specifically caused by the negligent driver’s behavior.

2. Evidence That the Driver Lent the Vehicle to the Unfit Operator

Next, you’ll need to prove that the driver allowed the unfit operator to borrow the vehicle. The incompetent driver must not have stolen the vehicle or have taken it without the consent of the vehicle owner.

This can sometimes be done by obtaining a statement from the at-fault party that they were allowed to borrow the vehicle. Or, there may be text messages or voicemails that recorded the vehicle owner giving permission to the driver to use it. In some cases, the vehicle owner will have admitted to allowing the person who caused the accident to borrow their car.  

3. Evidence That the Driver Knew the Operator Would Not Be Able to Safely Drive the Vehicle

Arguably, the most important point to argue in a negligent entrustment case is that the owner of the vehicle knew or reasonably should have known that the person would not be able to safely drive the vehicle.

Some common examples of this include but are not limited to:

  • Allowing an unlicensed or teenage driver to borrow your car, even if it’s just for a quick errand a short distance away
  • Allowing an intoxicated or inebriated person to drive someone else’s car to pick up food or more alcohol for a party
  • Letting someone with a history of potentially problematic medical issues borrow someone else’s car, e.g., if they have epilepsy, seizures, blackouts, or uncorrected poor vision

If the person who lent their vehicle out was aware or should have been aware that the driver was unfit to drive and allowed it anyway, you may be able to successfully pursue damages from them for negligent entrustment.

How an Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Being hurt in a motor vehicle accident through no fault of your own is a devastating and costly experience. Depending on the severity of the accident and your subsequent injuries, you may be facing lifelong disabilities, or you may have lost a loved one to wrongful death. You deserve full and fair compensation from all parties involved in the negligence that harmed you and your family.

At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we have extensive experience zealously representing accident victims and their families. Negligent entrustment cases can be challenging, because the evidence required to prove that the owner of a vehicle knowingly lent it to someone who they were fully aware could not operate it safely is often difficult to obtain. It’s critical that you work with an experienced personal injury lawyer who has successfully represented negligent entrustment cases before.

Contact our office today to schedule your consultation to discuss the incident, your legal rights, and what the next step should be. Call now at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.

How an Operator Exclusion Form Can Reduce Your Car Insurance Premium

Operator Exclusion FormTypically, your auto insurance policy must list all licensed drivers in your home who are related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption, and in some cases, your insurer may even require you to list roommates on your policy. This rule even applies to drivers covered by their own insurance policies, and you must list any and all persons even if they only drive your car occasionally.

However, in Massachusetts, you can get around this requirement by using the Operator Exclusion form. Keep reading to learn more about this form and how to use it.

Drivers With Their Own Insurance Policies

Drivers who have their own insurance policies are usually listed on your policy as “deferred operators” and garner no additional charge. In these situations, you can simply list the driver, and you don’t have to worry about paying higher premiums. Additionally, if that driver ever borrows your car, you can rest assured that they are fully covered by your policy. Note, however, that in some cases, their own coverage may come into play in the event of an accident.

Drivers Without Their Own Insurance Policies

If you have a driver in your home who does not have their own insurance policy, you are usually obligated to list them on your policy. In this situation, the insurer will take that driver into account when calculating your premium. Luckily, you don’t usually have to include drivers with their learner’s permits, until they are fully licensed.

Unfortunately, however, adding some drivers to your policy can drive up costs. If you want to save some money, you may want to consider filling out the Operator Exclusion form. That formally excludes the driver from your policy, but then, you need to ensure that driver never operates your vehicle.

When to Use the Operator Exclusion Form

Generally, it makes sense to use the Operator Exclusion form if you have a young driver in the home who would be listed as an inexperienced driver or if you have a driver who would increase your premiums.

For instance, you may choose to exclude a teen driver, but remember by signing the exclusion form, you promise to exclude your child from driving your vehicle under any circumstances. If your child drives your vehicle and you attempt to make an insurance claim, your claim moves to a misrepresentation of your agreement. As a result, your insurance company is absolved of paying any of your optional liability.

In some cases, policyholders also opt to exclude drivers when they leave the home to go to college, but you need to be careful with that as well. If you let the driver use your car when they are home on vacation, that negates your agreement. Before resorting to using this form, contact your insurer and see if a college student is still considered to be living in your home, check if you need to insure them, and ask about potential student discounts to help offset the cost of coverage.

What Happens If an Excluded Driver Operates Your Vehicle

If an excluded driver operates your vehicle and gets into an accident, you can lose your optional bodily injury coverage in an auto policy. In other words, if you allow an excluded driver to operate your vehicle, you may become liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, if the insurance company refuses to pay the claim. When you fill out the Operator Exclusion form, you agree to these terms, and it is perfectly legal for the insurer to deny your claims.

The Operator Exclusion Form

The form itself is relatively short and easy to complete. You simply note the excluded driver and a description of your vehicle. Then, you add your name, the policy number, and the date, and both you and the excluded driver must sign the form. When you sign the form, you agree to the following points:

  • If you make false, incomplete, or deceptive statements, the insurer can refuse to pay claims related to any part of your insurance policy.
  • Massachusetts state law requires insurers to withhold payments related to collision losses if an excluded household member operates your vehicle.
  • You agree that the excluded driver will not operate the listed vehicle or any replacements you buy for the listed vehicle.

If you don’t use the Operator Exclusion form and you fail to list any “customary” operator or licensed household member, your insurance company might refuse to pay your claim, even if you were driving at the time of the accident.

If you have been in an accident with someone who was listed on an operator exclusion form, you may face additional struggles trying to make a claim. In that situation, you need an experienced car accident attorney, and we can help you. To learn more, contact us today at Mazow | McCullough, PC.

Car Accident Liability for Junior Vehicle Operators

Junior Vehicle OperatorsIn Massachusetts, young drivers generally obtain a junior operator license after their learner’s permit. This license gives drivers ages 16.5 to 18 years of age the opportunity to operate a motor vehicle. Similarly, New Hampshire drivers between the ages of 16 and 21 years receive a Youth Operator license. In both cases, these drivers are subject to a few extra restrictions and obligations. Here’s a closer look at the junior and youth operator licenses and liability issues.

Obtaining Youth and Junior Operator’s License

To obtain a junior operator’s license, you must have had a learner’s permit for at least six months, completed an approved driver education and training program, and driven a certain number of hours under the supervision of your parent or guardian. You must also pass a written test. During the first six months of having your junior operator’s license, you can’t transport any passengers under the age of 18 years unless they are immediate family members or you have a licensed driver over the age of 21 with you. You also cannot drive between 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless a parent or guardian accompanies you.

In New Hampshire, drivers must take a driver’s education course, complete a certain number of supervised driving hours, and pass a test to obtain a youth operator’s license. With this license, minors can’t drive alone between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., and up to their 21st birthday, these drivers may have their licenses suspended for a variety of offenses, including building up demerits on their driving record.

Insurance Requirements

All Massachusetts and New Hampshire drivers are required to have car insurance. Youth and junior operators need liability coverage for bodily injury, property damage, personal injury protection, and uninsured motorists, but to be on the safe side, they may also want to have comprehensive and collision coverage as well as coverage for underinsured motorists. They should also consider getting bodily and property damage coverage above the legally mandated limits.

Statistically, teens are three times more likely to get into an accident than drivers over the age of 20. To protect your family financially, you should always ensure that teen drivers are well insured. As a general rule of thumb, insuring a teen driver is more expensive than insuring an adult driver. Parents can add teens to their own policies, and in fact, many insurers require you to add all licensed drivers who live in your home to your policy. The only way to get around this requirement is to buy the junior operator their own car and insure them just on that vehicle.

Were you injured? Call us today at (855) 693-9884. We can help.

Failure to List Licensed Drivers

If you fail to list licensed drivers on your insurance policy, your insurer may refuse to pay your claim in the event of a car accident. In fact, even if you are insured and you are driving, the insurer may still refuse to pay a claim if you have an uninsured junior operator in your home. In this situation, you may end up being personally liable for any costs incurred due to the accident.

However, some insurers will accept exclusions. You must submit an exclusion form to the insurer declaring that the junior operator will not ever drive your car and that you want them excluded from your policy.

Driving Without Insurance

If your teen driver takes your car and they are not listed on the insurance, you are responsible. In some situations, your insurer may cover the accident under the “guest driver” rules of the policy, but as indicated above, the insurer may not be legally required to cover these accidents. As a result, you may end up being personally liable. In other words, you may have to cover the cost of the accident with your assets and wages.

Even if your teen takes your car without permission, you can still be held responsible. Parents are often liable for their teens’ actions. The argument in these situations is that you are responsible for watching your child. If your child sneaks out, takes your car, and grievously injures someone, you may be to blame from a legal perspective. In some cases, you may escape criminal penalties, but you may still be civilly liable.

Finding the At-Fault Driver

Unfortunately, teens are often perceived to be irresponsible drivers regardless of how careful they are as individuals, and if a teen is in an accident, the other driver may rely on that stereotype to cast blame on the teen. However, if the teen didn’t really cause the accident, the other driver should be held liable. In these situations, you should consult with an attorney. They can find witnesses or proof of who was at fault, and they can help to ensure that the teen doesn’t have to bear the liability for an accident that they truly didn’t cause.

If you have a teen driver, you should take steps to help them be as careful as possible on the road. Remind them not to text and drive and to minimize other distractions. Also, keep in mind that you may be liable if they are in an accident. Make sure they have adequate insurance on your car or their own car, and if you decide to exclude them from your policy, make sure that you follow the rules of the exclusion and never let them drive the excluded vehicles.

Unfortunately, accidents can happen. If your teen has been in an accident or if you have been in an accident with a junior operator, you may need legal help. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us today. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we help clients after auto accidents as well as after a variety of other types of injuries.

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Inherent Liability: Who’s Liable When a Driver Crashes Someone Else’s Car?

Driver Crashes Someone Else’s CarWhen a driver crashes someone else’s car, the liability isn’t always clear, and it varies based on the location and the specifics of the situation. To help you get a sense of who’s liable, here’s a brief look at inherent liability and an overview of who’s liable when a car accident occurs in someone else’s car.

Permissive Use

Most car insurance policies have a permissive use clause. This simply means that if the owner gives someone permission to use their car, their insurance covers that driver. To explain, imagine someone lets their brother drive their car and the brother crashes the car, causing property damage. In this situation, it doesn’t matter whether or not the brother has coverage because the owner’s policy covers the damages.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. In Massachusetts, for example, you are required to list all other regular drivers on your policy, and some insurers interpret this broadly to mean that you should list all drivers, even if they only use your vehicle occasionally. As a result, the insurer may deny the claim if the driver isn’t listed on the owner’s policy. To learn about the laws in New Hampshire, contact an auto accident attorney directly, as this state has unique laws.

Roommates and Family Members

Typically, every licensed member of a household has to be listed on the car insurance policy for that household. This applies to family members, but surprisingly, it can also apply to roommates. If you share a house with a few people, your car insurance company usually won’t require you to list them on your policy if they have their own vehicles and their own insurance coverage.

However, if one of your roommates is a licensed driver without a vehicle or insurance, your insurance company may assume that they are likely to borrow your car, and because of that, your insurer may require you to list them on your policy. In this situation, if that individual borrows your car, your insurance should cover any liability issues.

Excluded Drivers

Adding certain drivers to your policy can drive up your premiums, especially if the driver is young or has a bad driving record. To sidestep those extra costs, you can exclude certain members of your household from your auto insurance policy. Those people need to be expressly listed as excluded on the policy, and they should never drive the vehicle, as they are not covered.

Theft

Whether someone is an excluded driver or not, if they take a vehicle without permission, the owner is generally not liable for anything that happens. In that situation, the thief is exclusively liable for any accidents that occur. However, for this to hold true, the owner of the vehicle may need to charge the driver with theft. That helps to establish that the driver did not have permission to use the car and this step may be necessary to protect the vehicle’s owner from a liability standpoint.

Non-Permissive Use

If the owner of the vehicle isn’t claiming that theft was involved, non-permissive use rules may come into play in a different way. Typically, if someone takes a car without permission, their insurance kicks in first, and then, the owner’s policy fills in any gaps. Conversely, if the driver doesn’t have insurance, the owner’s auto insurance policy may cover the damages, but that is not always the case.

For example, in the case of Wayne Mahoney vs. American Automobile Insurance Company, the judge ruled that the insurer was not responsible when a driver caused an accident with a rental car because the rental company (the owner of the vehicle) had not authorized him to use the vehicle. However, this only applies to adult drivers, and the rules vary based on whether or not a child was involved.

Parental Responsibility

In some cases, parents exclude their teenagers from their policies, and if the teen takes the family car without permission, the parents can charge the teen with theft as explained above. However, with parents and children, the rules are a bit more complicated. Parents are expected to be responsible for their children, and if a teen takes a vehicle, crashes it, and hurts someone, the parent can be held responsible. That’s true whether the parent let the teen borrow the car or not. Similarly, parents often can be held criminally and civilly liable for allowing their children to commit a range of other crimes.

Company Cars

When someone is driving a vehicle for work, their employer is usually liable for any accidents that occur. For instance, if a delivery truck driver hits a pedestrian, the owner of that company is liable for the damages. In situations where the driver is an independent contractor, the inherent liability is not as clear. Ride-sharing services in particular, often try to absolve themselves of liability unless the driver is actively carrying a passenger, but the courts have held these companies responsible for accidents occurring between fares.

Liability is a complicated issue, and if you’ve been in a car accident, you need a professional who truly understands the laws inside and out. To get the justice you deserve, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today. We will help you take a stand against the people who hurt you, regardless of whose car they were driving.

Teens and Distracted Driving

Teens and Distracted DrivingA quarter of all motor vehicle accidents are due to distracted driving, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the risks are even higher for teen drivers. Distracted driving refers to anytime a driver is distracted while operating a motor vehicle. Most people immediately link cell phones and distracted driving, but drivers can also be distracted by GPS systems, maps, stereos, other passengers, grooming, and countless other activities.

Teen Distractions and Motor Vehicle Accidents

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 58% of teen crashes are due to distracted drivers. This data comes from extensive analysis of 1,700 videos taken during teen accidents. Based on these videos, 89% of road departure crashes and 76% of rear-end collisions involve distractions.

In all of these accidents, the exact distraction varied, but the largest culprits were as follows:

  • 15% engaging with other passengers
  • 12% using cell phones
  • 10% looking at something in the vehicle
  • 9% looking at something outside the vehicle
  • 8% singing or car dancing
  • 6% grooming activities such as applying make-up or checking hair
  • 6% reaching for something in the car

Teen Driving Statistics

Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for teens around the world, and the United States is no exception. In 2015, 2,333 teens died behind the wheel, and another 235,845 suffered from injuries. That equates to one teen dying every four hours.

Those numbers are extremely disproportionate compared to the amount of teen drivers on the road. Although teens are only about 7 percent of the population, they account for 11 percent of the total costs related to motor vehicle accidents.

Why Teen Distractions Lead to Accidents

When a teen is driving a car, it may not seem like a big deal to quickly read a text, tell a joke to another passenger, or reach for a CD on the floor, but many of these activities have led to serious accidents or injuries. The reason why is simple — all of these activities take the drivers’ eyes off the road.

On average the teens who were analyzed in the above mentioned videos spent 4.1 seconds looking at their phones just before the accident. At 55 miles per hour, that equates to taking your eyes off the road for 331 feet. Even at just 30 miles per hour, vehicles move 44 feet per second, and taking your eyes off the road for 4 seconds is the equivalent of driving blind for 176 feet. When you compound these numbers by teens’ lack of driving experience, the results can be deadly.

How to Avoid Teen Distracted Driving

If you are a teen or a concerned parent, there are a number of steps you can take to be safer on the road and to avoid distracted driving in particular:

  • Turn your phone off while driving.
  • Limit the number of passengers in the car.
  • Make adjustments to mirrors, stereos, etc before driving.
  • Never reach for things in the car. Make sure anything you need is at hand before taking off.
  • Don’t drive while tired.
  • Don’t eat while driving.
  • Don’t groom while driving.
  • Avoid driving in the dark—a disproportionate number of teen accidents happen at night.
  • Never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Most importantly, be aware of the risks of distracted driving and be committed to paying attention when you are behind the wheel. When operating a motor vehicle, carve out that time just for driving. Don’t plan to do anything else while in the car. Remember, in Massachusetts, texting while driving isn’t just unsafe. It’s also illegal.

Distracted teens don’t just hurt themselves. They also hurt other drivers on the road as well as their passengers. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a distracted teen driver, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more, contact the Law Offices of Mazow | McCullough, PC at (978) 744-8000 or (855) 693-9084. Alternatively, request a case evaluation with our online form.

Are Parents Liable If Their Teens Injure Others in Car Accidents?

Teens Injure Others in a Car AccidentWhat happens when a teen causes a car accident that injures yourself or a loved one? You may be wondering whether the teen or their parents can be held liable and if you can bring a claim against them for damages. Here’s what you should know.

When a Teen Crashes Their Parents’ Vehicle

As a general rule of thumb, when a person owns a car, they are liable for accidents caused by that vehicle. There are only a few rare exceptions—most notably, if someone steals a vehicle, the owner typically isn’t liable for any accidents that occur. However, a teen cannot be held responsible for stealing their parents’ vehicle, unless the parents are willing to bring criminal charges against them, and even then, they may still be held liable.

Insurance and Liability

If the teen is covered under the parents’ insurance, the liability portion of their policy kicks in and covers expenses related to the accident. Typically, policies have bodily injury and property damage coverage. Respectively, that covers the cost of the victim’s medical bills and damage to their vehicle or other property.

If the parents don’t have enough coverage in either of these areas, they can be held personally liable. In these situations, parents may be required to liquidate assets or face a wage garnishment to cover their liability.

Permissive Use

Most auto insurance policies require every driver living in the house to be listed on the policy, but even if a teen isn’t listed on their parents’ policy, they are still likely to be covered under the permissive use part of the insurance plan. Basically, under that part of the insurance, if a vehicle owner gives someone permission to use the car, insurance covers accidents caused by them.

Exempted Drivers

That said, some policies allow owners to exempt certain drivers. For instance, if a teen has a poor driving record and they can’t afford the higher insurance premiums, parents may be able to list them as an exempted driver on their policy.

After an accident caused by an exempted driver, insurance may not kick in, but the owner of the vehicle still may be liable. In that case, parents may also have to use their personal income or assets to cover liability.

Unlicensed Teen Drivers

What if an unlicensed teen takes a car? In these cases, parents can also be held liable for any injuries or damage caused by the accident. In particular, they can be held responsible based on parental negligence. This argument often helps victims win cases related to bullying and assault, among other things. The premise is that if the teen’s parents weren’t supervising their child, they effectively allowed them to steal their car and the parents are responsible for what happens afterward.

If you’ve been hit by a teen or even a college-aged driver, you may be able to hold their parents financially liable. We can help. At Mazow | McCullough, PC we have the experience you need for your personal injury case. Contact us today by calling 855-693-9084.

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.

The Scary Statistics Between Texting and Driving

Texting while driving can be deadly. It only takes a few seconds of having your eyes off the road to cause a serious crash that can claim the lives of drivers and innocent passengers in just moments.

In 2015 alone, over 3,400 people were killed in accidents caused by distracted driving. 391,000 individuals suffered injuries in vehicle crashes that involved distracted driving. Let’s break down the shocking stats behind distracted driving in America:

(All of these scary statistics come from the US government’s NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), unless otherwise noted.)

Teens & Texting Behind the Wheel

16 to 24 year olds use their cell phones far more than any other age group. When it comes to car crashes, teens are the largest group to report distracted driving as the cause of fatal accidents. While picking up the phone to read or send a message may not seem like dangerous behavior, the consequences can be deadly. It takes just 5 seconds to avert your eyes and read a text message, but when going along at 55 MPH, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. No text message is worth that risk.

It’s not only cell phones that pose a potential distraction for teens, but it’s important to be aware that as cell phone usage and reliance increases among many age groups, the risks increase, as well. Compared to adult drivers, teenagers are four times as likely to be involved in a crash or to nearly crash while talking and texting.

Devastating Consequences

Federal data demonstrates that about 16% of all fatal crashes involve some type of distraction. An estimated 660,000 drivers use their cell phones during daylight hours in the US. With so many on the roadways easily distracted by mobile devices, the risks and devastating consequences are all too real. As a result, the NHTSA has created a national campaign to raise awareness and provide tips and information designed to help save lives. They are specifically targeting teen drivers in social media campaigns aimed at helping our youth understand the legal and moral consequences associated with texting and driving.

Laws On Distracted Driving

Many states are creating their own laws about distracted driving, specifically targeting cell phone use behind the wheel. In some places, it is now illegal to text and drive. While you simply shouldn’t engage in this behavior for safety reasons, you should also be aware that you could be breaking the law.

In Massachusetts, texting while driving has been banned since the law was passed in 2010, and drivers under the age of 18 are also banned from using a cell phone at all while behind the wheel. Police have stepped up enforcement efforts in recent years, issuing thousands of citations to drivers who violate the safe driving law. Parents should be sure to inform their teen drivers of the potential legal consequences of texting while driving.

Remember that distracted driving doesn’t only involve texting and using a mobile device. There are many simple, common activities that drivers engage in that can lead to preventable accidents, including eating, drinking, applying makeup, and changing the radio station. For your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road, please focus your attention on driving, and encourage other drivers to do the same.

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