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Can You Sue Underage Drivers in California?

Can You Sue Underage Drivers in California?

Underage people in California are getting behind the wheel at a worrying rate. Many of these teens have no idea how to drive, and they cause serious injuries during these joyrides. Vehicles are stolen from parents, Uber drivers, and a wide range of other sources. But what happens if you were injured in one of these crashes? Who can you sue? How do you pursue justice when the person responsible for your injuries is too young to even be tried as an adult? Although these situations are often difficult to deal with, you should know that it is possible to pursue positive results.

13-Year-Old Driver Causes Mayhem in Northern California

 On April 9, 2023, it was reported that a 13-year-old child had stolen his parent’s car before going out on a joyride in Woodland, North California. What followed was absolute mayhem, and by the time the teen had crashed, he had killed one person and injured 10. Witnesses spotted the teen driving erratically, and the police were alerted. But when approached by a patrol vehicle, the teen stepped on the gas and initiated a chase.

The teen found himself barrelling through an intersection and struck two cars at high speed. One woman died in the crash, and 10 more were transported to a nearby hospital. The crash was so intense that two of the three vehicles involved caught fire. Two of the victims were minors, and the teen also suffered serious injuries in the crash.

Police say that the teen could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. But it is unclear whether he will be charged as an adult, especially since he is just 13 years old. One has to question how he gained access to the vehicle in the first place, whether he had a history of joyriding, and whether his parents could have done anything to stop this from happening. Speaking about the incident, one police officer stated: “Unfortunately kids are young and they do not see their actions have consequences. Today this was pretty significant.”

 Under California law, it is very rare for teens younger than 14 to be tried as adults. There are some crimes that may cause teens aged 16 and 17 to be tried as adults, but this incident probably wouldn’t fall under those parameters.

How Do You Get Compensation for Injuries Caused by a Teen Driver?

 The most obvious way to pursue compensation for injuries caused by a teen driver is to file a claim through the parents’ insurance carrier. If they insured the car, this can provide you with varying degrees of compensation for your various damages, especially if you suffered whiplash, scrapes, bruises, or something equally minor. But it might not be enough, especially if you have suffered a serious injury.

You also have to remember that California is an at-fault state, which means that you need to prove negligence and file a personal injury lawsuit instead of simply going through PIP insurance. Proving that a parent’s negligence led to the accident is possible – but it could be difficult for a number of reasons.

First of all, parents can only be held liable for crashes caused by their teens if they give the teen consent to drive the car. This might allow you to use in a wide range of circumstances, but usually only if the teen possessed a license. If they were driving illegally, they almost certainly stole the vehicle and therefore did not get consent from their parents.

That being said, some parents allow their children to drive their cars even if they are far too young or lack a license. This is obviously an example of poor parenting, but it does happen. Not only that, but it is a sign of negligence – and parents can be held accountable by injured victims. The difficulty, of course, is proving that the parents gave the child permission to drive. They will almost always deny this, and their child may echo these lies. Police investigations can uncover the truth in some cases.

There is also the question of “implied consent.” This is when parents “allow” their children to drive without overtly giving permission. Implied consent can occur in a number of different ways. For example, parents may react with indifference when their children steal their cars for joyrides, giving children the impression that this behavior is acceptable despite it being against the rules of the household. Parents may also provide implied consent if they make it very easy for children to take the car at any point. For example, some parents have been accused of implied consent for leaving the keys in the vehicle while it is parked in the driveway.

Obviously, it is very difficult to establish that parents are negligent for simply leaving their keys out in the open. But the “implied consent” argument may be the only way for injured plaintiffs to recover compensation for crashes caused by joyriding teens, and it might be worth exploring. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that options are limited in these situations – and this is something that the injured victims in Woodland are currently finding out. It’s always a good idea to speak with an attorney, however, as your path toward compensation may be easier than you realize.

Where Can I Find a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney in California?

 If you have been searching for a qualified, experienced personal injury lawyer in California, look no further than Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP. Over the years, we have helped all kinds of victims who have suffered injuries in auto accidents. We know how serious the consequences can be when underage teens manage to get behind the wheel. With our help, you can explore your legal options and determine the best possible course of action. During a consultation, we can discuss your unique situation. Remember, internet research cannot provide the same level of targeted assistance as a real attorney. Reach out today to seek justice with confidence and efficiency.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.