Know Your Rights When Teens Cause Injury Accidents

Car crashes rank as the No. 1 cause of death for Wisconsin teenagers, claiming nearly 50 lives annually and injuring more than 5,000, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).

Hayward car accident lawyers at Lein Law Offices recognize that the high rate of teen deaths and injuries is correlated with statistical evidence showing they are more likely to speed, not wear their seat belts, and be distracted by texting or other young passengers.

Nationally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports half a dozen teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 are killed in auto accidents daily. Per mile driven, teens in this group are at triple the risk of a fatal crash compared to drivers over age 20.

A Closer Look At Teen Accident Statistics

A few teen driving accident statistics from WisDOT:

  • While less than 5 percent of Wisconsin's licensed drivers are between the ages of 16 and 19, this group accounts for more than 11 percent of all collisions, 6 percent of all drivers in crashes suspected of drinking and 9.4 percent of all drivers in crashes suspected of using drugs.
  • Teen drivers were more likely than older motorists to be speeding, driving too fast for conditions, failing to yield the right-of-way, failing to control, following too close and driving inattentively.
  • Two-thirds of Wisconsin teen passengers killed in crashes died with another teenager behind the wheel.
  • Weekends and late afternoons are especially dangerous for teen drivers, and snowy/icy/slushy road conditions are known to pose special threats.
  • The newer the driver, the higher the risk of a potential crash.

Who Is Liable For Wisconsin Car Accidents Caused By Teen Drivers?

As a "tort state" when it comes to auto insurance, Wisconsin expects those who cause accidents to be responsible for the damages. (This differs from a no-fault system, wherein all drivers have their own personal injury protection insurance that covers their damages regardless of fault.)

However, lawmakers recognized a few special protections were needed where teens were concerned because of their outsized crash risk and their lack of personal financial stability. That's why, when a teen driver was behind the wheel in a serious crash, our Hayward car accident attorneys advise looking beyond just the driver to determine if other defendants may be responsible.

Some examples of third-party defendants in Wisconsin teen driver accidents include:

  • Parent(s) or adults with custody who are signed sponsors. New teen drivers don't automatically have full rights on the road. They will need to either complete the Wisconsin graduated driver's license program and/or the probationary license program. One of the stated requirements of these programs is that they must have an adult sponsor. This is a person who agrees to accept liability — up to $300,000 — for any and all negligence or willful misconduct of a person under 18 when operating a motor vehicle. This responsibility is imputed to parents where both have custody and at least one has signed as a sponsor, or to the adult sponsor who signed the application for the teen's license.

  • Provider(s) of alcohol under Wisconsin's dram shop law or social host law. Per Wisconsin Statute Ann. § 125.035, people may be immune from civil liability arising out of the act of procuring alcohol for or selling, dispensing or giving alcohol away to another person. This covers both dram shop licensed vendors and social host situations. However, there is an exception in the law for situations wherein "alcohol is provided to minor" and also was a "substantial factor" in the injury that resulted.

  • Teen's employer. This would only come into play if the teen driver was acting in the course and scope of employment. For instance, a teen gets a weekend job delivering pizzas and crashes into another car while en route back to the shop.

You may also be able to file a claim for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in the event the auto insurance available to pay third-party claims is not sufficient to fully cover your losses. UM coverage will extend to situations where the teen driver didn't have any insurance (or committed a hit-and-run) and UIM will step in to pay the difference if the existing coverage isn't enough given the full extent of your damages.

This applies in cases where a teen is seriously injured or killed while riding with an intoxicated driver. In cases where multiple friends are in a serious or fatal collision, passengers in an at-fault driver's vehicle should still consult a Sawyer County injury law firm with experience handling claims against multiple insurance companies and other parties.

The First Step Is To Meet With Us

To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Hayward, Wisconsin, car accident attorney, call 715-403-5045, or use our online contact form. In-home and hospital visits are available.