Can Teens Be Held Liable for Car Accident Injuries

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You’ve been in an accident.

As you exit your vehicle and step around the shattered glass strewn around, you notice the driver that hit you exit their vehicle. They’re only a teenager. Can teens be held liable for car accident injuries? Let’s take a look.

Teen Driving Statistics

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, new drivers aged 16 are 1.5 times more likely to get into an accident than their often (18-19 year old) counterparts.  They’re also more likely to speed, and are less experienced drivers, leading them to misjudge how dangerous a certain behavior or circumstance is. 

Can Teens be Held Liable for Car Accident Injuries?

In a word, yes.

Each driver who takes to the roads knowingly or unknowingly agrees to the duty of driving responsibly. When this duty fails to be met, a driver responsible for a car accident and the injuries of another driver can be held liable. This applies to teenagers as well.

Typically, teen drivers are insured on a parent’s policy, meaning that if and when a teen is sued, the insurance company is the one who takes care of it. 

If a child has no proof of insurance at all, the injured parties are well within their rights to sue parent, child, and whoever else they deem liable for the damage incurred. 

When It’s The Family’s

In many cases, a teenager with a freshly minted driver’s license will be driving a family car, or one of their parent’s car’s entrusted to them. In these cases, teens that crash while driving a parent’s vehicle are not typically held liable. Instead, their parents may be deemed at fault for negligent entrustment of their vehicle. 

Negligent entrustment is a theory under tort law which assigns fault to a party who knowingly entrusts a deadly instrument, like a vehicle, to another party, who then goes and injures someone with that instrument. For example, if a teen has only had their license for a few months and already has two traffic violations for speeding and reckless driving and their parents still decide to loan the car to them for a night out, those parents can be held liable for the damages done.

In Washington, the family car doctrine may also hold the parents/owners of the car liable for any damages done to others using the car by a member of the family.

When It’s a Friend’s Car

If a teen was out with friends and got behind the wheel of someone else’s car, the injured party is within their rights to sue both the owners of the vehicle and the child. Again, if they’re insured these fees are typically covered by insurance. 

Preventing Teen Accidents

Ideally, no child would cause any accidents. 

Though we don’t live in a perfect world, there are practical steps you can take to help teens become a safe, responsible, and alert driver.

  • Practice defensive driving: In addition to driver’s ed, instruct teens on best practices for being alert to potentially dangerous situations.
  • Limit night driving: Driving at night increases the chance for catastrophic collisions. Teen drivers are 3x more likely to be involved in fatal car accidents than adults between 30 and 59. This may look like instilling a curfew.
  • Talk to teens about distracted driving: In the digital age, teens are even more at risk for causing an accident due to distracted driving due to their lack of experience. 


If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, contact an attorney at Evergreen Personal Injury Council today. Our team will work on your behalf to win you the financial compensation you deserve. Give us a call at 800-992-9529.