Because of their inexperience behind the wheel, teen drivers have an especially high risk of being involved in car accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a crash. Teen driver accidents can be challenging to litigate because having a minor involved adds a layer of legal complexity to the case. Car accident lawyer Terrence R. Bethune has significant experience handling these cases in the region around Atlanta and can help you if you were injured by the carelessness of a young motorist.
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Georgia’s Family Purpose Doctrine May Hold Parents Accountable
Georgia law does not automatically allow a person injured in a car accident with a teen driver to hold the minor’s parents legally responsible. Courts in this state have adopted what is called the “family purpose doctrine” to assess whether his or her parents can be successfully named as defendants in a personal injury lawsuit.
There are four elements of the family purpose doctrine that a victim must prove in order to hold parents responsible for the actions of their child behind the wheel.
- First, the named parent must own or control the car involved in the accident.
- The parent must have made the vehicle available for use by the family.
- The driver must be a member of the parent’s immediate household.
- Finally, the minor must have had permission or acquiescence from his or her parents to operate the car.
If these four elements are established, the teen driver’s parent or parents can be named as defendants in a personal injury lawsuit and, if the claim succeeds, be held liable for damages caused by their child.
Seek Compensation Through a Negligence Claim
In addition to proving the elements of the family purpose doctrine, a person hurt in an accident with a teen driver must prove that he or she was negligent, just as in any other personal injury case. To succeed in this claim, the victim must show:
- The teen driver had a duty of reasonable care;
- He or she breached the duty by engaging in unnecessarily risky actions;
- The teen driver was the legal and factual cause of the victim’s injuries; and
- Compensable damages resulted from the accident.
All drivers in Georgia have a duty to avoid unreasonable behavior that would endanger the people around them. Texting while driving, tailgating, or engaging in other unsafe behavior could constitute a breach of this obligation. If that behavior was both a foreseeable/ direct cause of the victim’s injuries, the teen driver can be held liable.
Proving the elements of negligence is necessary whether or not the victim asserts a claim against the teen’s parents using the family purpose doctrine. In the event of an 18-year-old or 19-year-old, the injured person may choose to sue the driver as the sole defendant and, if successful, try to collect damages directly from him or her.
Consult an Atlanta Teen Driver Accident Lawyer
Devising a strategy for recovering compensation after an auto accident can be complicated. An experienced lawyer can help you protect your rights if you were harmed by a teen driver. Since 1997, car accident attorney Terrence R. Bethune has dedicated his legal career to helping injured individuals in Atlanta and beyond seek the compensation they deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation, call 1-800-INJURED or fill out the contact form.