Published on:

Who is Responsible for Fort Myers Teen Car Accidents?

Fort Myers teen car accidentsFor a teenager, that first set of car keys feels like freedom – at last! Parents, of course, usually have a different perspective. There’s often a great deal of apprehension around those first few driving years. Unfortunately, those concerns are well-founded, as the risk of Fort Myers teen car accidents is especially high for new drivers.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, car crashes are a leading cause of death for teens. In a single recent year, 3,058 teens ages 13 to 19 were killed in car accidents and another 227,000 were injured. Not all of those involved teen drivers of course, but the risk of fatal Fort Myers teen car accidents is three times higher for those 16 to 19 than in any other driving age group (per miles driven). Drivers aged 16 and 17 were at higher risk than those 18 and 19.

The good news is that since the mid-1990s and early 2000s, more states started adopting graduated licensing systems for young motorists. The purpose is to phase in driving privileges, rather than simply hand over the keys and hope for the best.

In Florida, graduated driver licensing laws outline limits and restrictions for drivers 15 to 17. For instance, teens with a learner’s permit (which they hold for at least 12 months or until they turn 18, whichever comes first) are only permitted to operate a car during daylight hours for the first three months. They’re restricted from driving after 10 p.m. They must always be accompanied by a licensed driver over the age of 21, and they need at least 50 hours of supervised driving – including 10 nighttime hours. Once they earn their driver’s license, 16-year-olds aren’t permitted to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and must always be accompanied by an over-21 licensed driver – unless they’re driving to or from work. Once they turn 17, they are given a bit more freedom with nighttime driving, but still can’t be on the road between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. They also must be accompanied by an over-21 licensed driver unless they’re driving to and from work.

So, Who Pays For Fort Myers Teen Car Accidents?

The question of who is legally liable for Fort Myers teen car accidents first comes down to the question of fault. Florida is a no-fault state for crashes, but that just means that all drivers (except motorcyclists) are responsible for the first $10,000 in medical bills/property damages – regardless of fault. If you’re injuries caused you damages in excess of that, then you can take legal action against the at-fault driver. Fort Myers teen car accidents

Florida used to be a pure comparative fault state, meaning everyone was responsible for their own share of fault. However, recent tort reform measures by state lawmakers moved us to a system of comparative fault with a 51 percent bar. What that means is if the injured person is more than 50 percent responsible for the crash, they can’t collect any damages. So as personal injury lawyers, we’ll be initially looking carefully at who was at-fault – and to what extent.

Teen drivers are at higher risk of a crash by virtue of their inexperience, but that doesn’t make them automatically at-fault. Adult drivers can easily bear the greater fault burden in these cases.

But if the teen driver is at-fault, there are a few different avenues of establishing liability and collecting damages, depending on the circumstances. Those include:

  • Insurance. Hopefully, if the teen is driving, they have at least the minimum amount of required insurance. If you’re injured due to the negligence of a teen driver (this includes passengers), you can file a claim for damages from their bodily injury liability insurer. More than likely, they are covered under a parent’s auto insurance policy.
  • The owner of the vehicle. Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine allows for vehicle owners to be held liable for driver negligence – even if the owner wasn’t behind the vehicle. The idea behind this doctrine of vicarious liability is that motor vehicles are inherently dangerous, and thus the owner bears responsibility when they grant someone else permission to operate one that belongs to them. Vehicles operated by teens are often owned and/or insured by the parents.
  • The employer of the teen. If the teen was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of a crash, their employer can be held vicariously liable for the resulting damages. Examples of common teen jobs that require driving include food delivery driver, moving services, courier, summer camp/daycare worker, valet, etc. A lot of driving jobs do require motorists to be at least 18 or 21 with a clean driving record – but not all.
  • Parents of the teen. Parents who negligently entrust their vehicle to their teen – knowing they are not a safe driver – can be held directly liable for that negligence. This might also apply if they allowed their teen to drive in violation of graduated driver’s licensing rules.
  • Dram shop liability. Florida’s dram shop law is very restrictive compared to other states. However, if a bar or restaurant knowingly or negligently serves alcohol to someone who is under the age of 21 and that person in turn causes a drunk driving accident, the entity that served the teen booze can be held liable under the state dram shop law. Similar rules can apply if someone serves alcohol to an underage driver at a house party (called social host liability).

If you are injured by the negligence of a teen driver, our personal injury team can help you explore every possible avenue of recovery. Don’t wait to reach out, as Florida’s statute of limitations on filing personal injury cases was recently shortened from 4 years to just 2 years.

Contact the Garvin Injury Law car accident attorneys with offices in Fort Myers, Naples, Key West and Sarasota today at 239.277.0005 or online for a free case review.

Additional Resources:

Fatality Facts 2021, Teenagers, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

More Blog Entries:


Justia Lawyer Rating for Jeffrey R. Garvin
Florida Legal Elite 2016
Super Lawyers
Million Dollar Advocates Forum
The Best Lawyers in America
American Association for Justice
Florida Justice Association
Contact Information