For many teens, their first set of car keys is also the key to an entire world of freedom and independence. But that freedom comes with its own set of risks. Teenage drivers are generally the least experienced and most unpredictable drivers on the road, causing them to be involved in more crashes and more deadly accidents. Parents are right to be concerned about their children’s safety behind the wheel.
Many parents whose teens have just started driving may be worried about their own liability if their child is involved in a Florida car accident. In general, it is possible in Florida for a parent to be held at least partially liable for an accident in which their teenage child was at fault. The specifics of this issue are tied up in both state law and the details of your family’s auto liability coverage. At Chiumento Law, PLLC, we want to help Florida parents make sound and informed decisions about their insurance and expectations for teen drivers. With that in mind, here is some information to help you understand your responsibilities under the law as a parent.
Teen Car Accidents by the Numbers
Teens are one of the highest-risk groups of drivers on the road. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens nationwide. Drivers ages 16 to 19 are almost three times as likely to be involved in car accidents as are drivers 20 and older. In Florida, teens can start driving with a learner’s permit at 15 and unsupervised at the age of 16, placing a large number of risky drivers on our roads.
What is the Percentage of Florida Car Accidents Caused by Teen Drivers?
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, young drivers ages 15 to 20 were involved in 63,591 accidents in the most recent year of traffic data. That number represents 16 percent of all traffic accidents in Florida that year. Young drivers were involved in 15,471 crashes involving injuries.
There are specific conversations you as a parent can have with your teen child to help them understand the risks of unsafe driving and eliminate some of the riskiest behaviors behind the wheel, decreasing their chances of being in an accident. Parents should warn their kids about:
- Speeding: As inexperienced drivers, many teens may underestimate the degree to which speeding can make it harder to control a vehicle and reduce the time needed to avoid an accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding was a factor in 31 percent of teen traffic fatalities in 2016.
- Alcohol and drugs: Teens should not have alcohol or illegal drugs in the first place. The NHTSA reports that 20 percent of teen traffic fatalities in 2016 involved alcohol.
- Texting and other distractions: Teens are rarely ever far from their phones. Unfortunately, some young drivers use them behind the wheel, with disastrous results. The NHTSA cites studies showing that distracted drivers are 23 times more likely to end up in accidents than are drivers who keep their eyes on the road.
If you can make your teen understand the realities of risky driving, you may be able to help them avoid an accident. As every parent knows, it’s not always possible to keep teens from taking risks, and some will, unfortunately, end up in accidents in which they are at least partially at fault.
When Teen Drivers Are at Fault
Under Florida law, teens do not get any special treatment when they are involved in car accidents. Just as if the accident were between two adult drivers, the police will arrive at the scene, interview both drivers, and write up a report. The insurance claims process will go forward in the same way.
Since Florida is a no-fault state, for minor car accidents, each driver will on file a claim with their own insurance company (not the other driver’s insurance company), under their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. Florida requires the owners of a car or truck to have PIP insurance with $10,000 of personal injury protection and $10,000 of property damage coverage. PIP covers you, your children and certain other passengers. In these cases, it is not necessary to worry too much about fault, because the other driver will not be able to sue you or your teen.
Where fault comes into play in personal injury accident is when the accident causes serious injury, including permanent injuries and severe scarring. Drivers who suffer these kinds of injuries can go beyond their own PIP coverage and file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company. In such cases, Florida courts apply a standard called ‘comparative negligence.’ Whether the driver is a teenager or an adult, the driver will be assigned a percentage of fault for the accident. Any monetary award they can win in a personal injury claim will be reduced by that percentage.
Parents’ Responsibility In a Teen Car Crash
As a parent, if another driver holds your teen liable in a claim after suffering serious injuries, you could be on the hook for the financial consequences. When you signed the form allowing your child to get a driver’s license under the age of 18, you agreed to be financially responsible for their actions. This means that even though a court might assign a percentage of fault for the accident in your child’s name, you will likely be responsible for any out-of-pocket expenses or increases in insurance premiums that come as a result of the case.
Teen drivers and Auto Insurance
Many parents whose teens are about to start driving have questions about insurance. Does my teen child have to be on my auto insurance policy? The answer is that your teen either needs to be listed on your auto insurance or the teen driver needs a separate insurance policy. The state of Florida requires that drivers have liability insurance to drive.
For many families, it is cheaper to add teens to their existing insurance policy. But some parents may shop around and decide to purchase a separate policy for their teens. In any case, the insurance company whose policy bears the teen’s name will be on the hook in the event of an accident.
Contact a Teen Car Accident Lawyer in Florida today
Letting your teen get behind the wheel can be scary, and learning they’ve been involved in an accident is even more frightening. If your teen has been hurt or otherwise involved in a car accident caused by another motorist, contact Chiumento Law, PLLC today for more information on how our Florida teen car accident lawyers can help.