Who is Liable if a Drivers Ed Student Crashes: Fault, Factors, and How to Claim
Any driver, regardless of experience, can end up in an accident, but some are more risky than others. One of the most at-risk categories is student drivers.
Those still learning to drive can make mistakes, which can cause accidents involving other vehicles.
These things happen, but who is liable if a driver's ed student crashes, and what is the correct process for filing a claim if it happens?
Are Student Drivers More Likely to Cause a Car Accident?
Experienced drivers tend to be wary when driving near a learner driver, and for good reason. Teen drivers are the highest-risk age group for car accidents, especially those who only have their learner's permit.
Although much of the learning process takes place off the roads in a safe environment, there comes a point when they take to the roads- and then they pose a greater risk to other road users.
Risk Factors with Student Drivers
Just because someone is still learning to drive, it doesn't automatically mean they are a danger on the road, but there are some undeniable factors that could create risky situations. Here are some leading reasons to be wary of a driver's ed student when sharing the road.
They may not have as fast a reaction time if something goes wrong.
Mistakes can be made that have knock-on effects on other road users.
Student drivers have less road experience, so they may not be aware of certain threats.
They could still be learning traffic signals and fail to respond on time.
Many learner drivers take to the roads with parents or friends rather than a qualified instructor, which can be dangerous if the person is not responsible or attentive enough.
Younger drivers may be ignorant of road rules while they are still learning.
Fault and Liability in Accidents Involving Student Drivers
Before getting into who is held responsible when a student driver causes an accident, it is worth noting the difference between fault and liability. In most cases, it is the student driver's error that leads to an accident, so technically they are at fault. However, liability may fall to someone else if they had a responsibility to prevent mistakes from being made.
Who is Liable if a Student Driver Causes a Car Crash?
If a driver's ed student crashes and another person or vehicle is involved, the at-fault party can be held liable for damages. Who exactly the liable party is depends on the situation. In most cases, one of the following parties is liable.
The student driver
The student driver's parents
The driving school
The driving instructor
Let's look at some scenarios for each one.
The Student Driver
If the crash involving a student driver was caused by their negligence behind the wheel, they can be held responsible the same way they would be if they had a full driver's license.
To make a claim directly against the student driver, the victim must be able to show that they were driving recklessly, dangerously, or negligently when the accident happened.
Some examples include:
Exceeding posted speed limits
Using their phone while driving
Driving under the influence
Breaching traffic law
The Parents of the Student Driver
When a teenage driver's ed student is learning to drive with a permit, their parents are often held liable and financially responsible for their actions. This is to ensure that there is a responsible party who has sufficient insurance to cover damages in a claim.
If they are logging practice hours using their parent's car or another family vehicle, the auto insurance policy should be extended to cover learner's liability.
It is far more common to make a claim against a learner's parents than the learner themselves since many driver's ed students are teenagers.
The Driving School
Driving schools may also be held liable in some cases. Holding the driving school liable can be complicated, and there are a few ways it can go.
The driving school may be liable if the driving school vehicle is poorly maintained.
Victims may be able to sue driving schools for negligent hiring if the employee's actions are determined to have contributed.
Laws sometimes allow a driving school to be held liable for an accident caused by one of its students under the respondeat superior theory, which essentially means the company is responsible for the actions of its employees.
The school's insurance company may try to argue that the parents or driver should be liable instead, but an experienced automobile accident attorney can help find the correct path. Many driving schools have a robust liability insurance policy to cover incidents.
The Driving Instructor
If a car accident caused by a student driver during a driving lesson could have been avoided if the instructor took certain actions, they could be liable and share fault. The instructor is expected to intervene if an emergency happens, and if their failure to do so contributed to the crash, they can be found to be at fault.
This is especially relevant if there is evidence to show that the instructor was not paying attention during the lesson. If they were on their phone, for example, they are more likely to be held liable alongside the driver.
What to Do If Involved in an Accident with a Student Driver
Someone who intends to seek compensation for vehicle damages, medical costs, or other expenses after an accident with a student should follow the same procedures they would in any other car accident. Start by contacting the police and getting the insurance and contact details of the driver and the driving school, and stay at the scene until the police say it is okay to go. Gather evidence, speak to witnesses, and take pictures if possible.
Speak with a lawyer about who to claim against and how to go about it, and seek medical attention even if there are no obvious injuries.
Other Things to Remember
Anyone using the road at the same time as driving school vehicles or a car with L plates should take extra precautions and give them plenty of space. Everyone has a legal duty of care to other road users. If someone fails to make allowances for driver's ed students and ends up forcing an accident, they may be found partially liable and not be able to claim compensation. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also advise on who is at fault for a parking lot car accident.
Contact a Qualified Attorney to Help File a Claim the Right Way
Speak to an expert in Indiana car accidents about making an insurance claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit after a crash involving a driver's ed student.
Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys go to war for Indy victims to help them through the process and ensure they receive the compensation they deserve.