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Do I Sue the Teenager Who Hit Me or Their Parents After a Crash?

Driving is a privilege that comes with great responsibility, especially when it comes to inexperienced teen drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes than other drivers due to inexperience and lack of skills. This means they can pose an increased danger to other drivers on the road and themselves.

If you’re harmed in a crash involving a teen driver, you can seek compensation for your injuries in Wisconsin. However, when the teen is under 18, you may file against their parents’ insurance to receive a settlement. Our car accident attorneys at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers can review your case and help you determine your next steps after a vehicle crash with a teen driver.

Teen Drivers and Accident Statistics

Teen drivers are a high-risk group when it comes to accidents. According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, only 6% of licensed drivers in the state are between 16 to 19 but make up 16% of drivers involved in collisions.

In 2021, 34 drivers and 15 passengers between 15 and 19 were killed in fatal crashes. Teen drivers also suffered 2,339 injuries on Wisconsin roads. 1,172 female and 1,167 male teen drivers experienced injuries.

Factors contributing to teen drivers’ heightened risk include inexperience, distractions such as cell phone use, and a tendency to underestimate dangerous situations. Accidents involving teen drivers can result in serious injuries, fatalities, and significant property damage.

Understanding Liability for Teen Drivers

In Wisconsin, parents are generally responsible for their teen drivers, especially if the teen is under 18. In Wisconsin, the responsibility for injuries caused by a teen driver can extend beyond the teenager.

Under several legal concepts, including vicarious liability, negligent entrustment, and the family car doctrine, the vehicle owner or the person who entrusted the vehicle to the teen driver may be liable for any injuries or damages caused by the teen’s negligent actions.

In many cases, parents can be held liable for their teen’s actions behind the wheel if they knowingly allowed their child to drive and if the teen driver’s negligence or recklessness caused the accident. For example, parents may be legally responsible if they provided a vehicle for their teen, allowed them to drive without a valid license, or failed to supervise their teen driver properly.

Why Victims Usually Sue the Parents, Not the Teen Driver

When seeking compensation for injuries caused by a teen driver, pursuing legal action against the teenager may prove challenging. You may encounter the following difficulties in getting compensation from a teen driver, making it a better legal option to bring a claim against their parents.

  • Limited financial resources: Teenagers generally have limited financial means. Even if you succeed in winning damages in a lawsuit, the teen driver may not possess sufficient assets or insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries and damages adequately.
  • Lack of legal independence: Minors under 18 typically lack legal independence, making holding them independently responsible for their actions difficult. Even if you bring a claim against them, their parents or legal guardians will act on their behalf. This makes filing directly against the teen’s parents a more straightforward option.
  • Parental consent: In many cases, a teenager is driving with permission and under the supervision of their parents. This can create legal challenges when establishing the teen’s responsibility, as their actions may fall under their parent’s authority and decisions.
  • Limited liability: In Wisconsin, there are regulations in place that limit the liability of minors. For example, Wisconsin requires teen drivers to have a sponsor before receiving a license. Statute 343.15 holds this sponsor responsible if the teen driver causes harm due to negligence or intentional wrongdoing for up to $300,000 or their insurance policy limits, whichever is higher.

Take Legal Action After a Crash Involving a Teen Driver

If you have been injured in an accident involving a teen driver, consult with an Appleton auto accident attorney from Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers. Our legal team will help you understand your compensation options and decide whether to file against the teen driver or their parents based on the specific circumstances of your case.

We will guide you through the legal process, gather evidence to build your case, and protect your interests when negotiating with the at-fault teen or their parents’ auto insurer.

If you suffered injuries in an accident involving a teen driver in Wisconsin, contact us for a free consultation to get started on your case.

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