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Teen Driving Accidents

Accidents Involving Teens Parental Liability and the Parental Responsibility Law in Illinois

Teen Driving Accidents The Collins Law Firm is a highly-rated personal injury firm representing people who have been injured in car accidents in Naperville, Aurora, Plainfield, Bolingbrook, Chicago, and the suburbs.

According to the IIHS, the fatal crash rate in the U.S. is 3 times higher for drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 than for drivers 20 and older. In 2019 alone, 2,375 drivers between the ages of 13 and 19 died in vehicle crashes. That is a tragedy. Before your teenager starts driving you must set up rules for them—no drinking and driving, no texting, etc.—and remind them of these rules before allowing them to use the car. Your actions may save their life.

If you have been injured in a car accident involving a teenager, you may assume they are the only ones liable, but this may not be the case. Victims who get hurt in an auto accident caused by a teenaged driver may try to hold the parents responsible for damages, and, depending on the situation, the law may back them up. Determining if a parent is liable in a teen car accident can be complex, however, so it is critical that you call one of our experienced car crash attorneys at The Collins Law Firm for help.

How Teens Get Their License in Illinois

Illinois has a Graduated Driver Licensing System. This system requires teen drivers to pass through phases before obtaining a full, unrestricted driver’s license.

  1. High School Parking Lot Permit Phase: Getting a permit is the first step. Once a teenager is at least 15 years old, they can obtain a permit with consent from a parent or legal guardian. This phase of licensure has many requirements, some of them are that the driver has to be enrolled in a driver’s education course, drive a certain amount of hours, and hold the permit for at least nine months.

  2. Initial Licensing Phase: After all of the permit requirements have been met, teen drivers aged 16 or 17 may get a restricted license. Restrictions for this type of license include nighttime curfews, a limit on the number of passengers under 20 years old, and no cell phone use while driving, even if the device is hands-free.

  3. Full Licensing Phase: After both of the previous steps have been completed, a driver may obtain a full license if they are between 18-20 years old.

Insurance Requirements in Illinois

Teenagers are required by Illinois law to have a minimum of $20,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, per accident, with a total of $40,000. Parents with teen drivers, however, may want to consider getting more coverage because of the high rate of accidents among new drivers.

When are Parents Liable for Their Teen Driver?
  • Liability under the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law The Illinois Parental Responsibility Law (740 ILCS 115) holds the parents or legal guardian of a “minor” child liable for the injures caused by the actions of that child under certain situations. In these cases, specific conditions must be met: the minor” child must be between 11 and 19 years old, live with the parent(s) or guardian, and cannot be emancipated from his or her family. The law does not hold parents responsible in “true accidents” where a teenager was simply acting negligently or carelessly. Under the law, a parent is only responsible if the child was acting willfully or maliciously and that behavior resulted in injury to another person. A teenager driving under the influence could qualify because he or she intentionally drove drunk knowing that it was against the law and could cause an accident. An experienced car accident attorney will assess the minor’s conduct and determine if their behavior constituted a negligent act done intentionally. If a parent is found liable under the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law, they can be responsible for economic damages, such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages. A judge may also award attorney’s fees to the plaintiff. However, parents are not on the hook for punitive damages like pain and suffering.

Other Parental Liability

It is important to know that the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law is not intended to limit parental liability in situations where traditional civil fault principles could apply. These principles include:

  • Agency Theory: Under the agency theory, the parents of a child who was driving negligently may be held liable if that child was doing the parents’ business, such as running an errand for the family, at the time when the accident occurred. For example, the court has accepted that going to the store for groceries is family business and so this principle applies. If, on the other hand, the child was using one of the parent’s cars for their own purposes, the parents will not be held liable. In order to file a claim against the parents, a car accident lawyer would have to show that the driver was acting as an “agent’ for the family.

  • Teen Driving While Texting Theory of Negligent Entrustment: Under this theory, a parent may be liable for a child’s accident if he or she allows their teenager to drive despite knowing the teen has a history of accidents. An example of this would be a situation where a parent knew their child had a habit of texting and driving which had resulted in several accidents, yet still allowed their teen to drive the car. If the teen injured a person in a texting and driving accident, the parents could be held liable.

    This theory could also allow a car accident attorney to seek damages for his client--injured in a car crash caused by a drunk teen--from a parent who knowingly gave the teen alcohol and allowed him or her to drive. This could be critical if the parents’ insurance policy has an exclusion for illegal behavior and refuses to provide coverage for an accident.

Contact Us for Outstanding Representation From Seasoned Car Accident Lawyers

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car crash involving a teenaged driver, you need to call the experienced car accident attorneys at The Collins Law Firm as soon as possible. Our lawyers are familiar with Illinois’ Parental Responsibility Law and know how to navigate the complexities of this kind of case to get you the maximum compensation available. Let us help you. Call us at (630) 527-1595 or fill out our contact form for a free evaluation of your auto accident case.

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