Getting a call that your teenager has been in a car accident is one of a parent’s worst fears. While most accidents are preventable, teenagers’ inexperience, distraction, and an inherent false sense of invincibility puts teens at a high risk of getting in an accident. Every day, approximately six teenagers die and over 660 are injured in traffic accidents across the U.S. according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If your teen has recently been involved in a car accident, you are probably overwhelmed with making sure your child is okay, figuring out what happened, and dealing with the logistical issues like insurance and medical bills. A teen car accident lawyer in Pittsburgh can help. Our attorneys can review your case, explain what your legal options are, and help you with a claim or suit. Call Berger and Green today at 412-661-1400.
What are some of the most common causes of teen car accidents?
Inexperience is one of the primary factors teens have working against them. They simply have not mastered safe driving skills yet, and to make matters worse, teens tend to overestimate their abilities, wrongfully assuming they can handle a car better than they actually can.
Another major factor that contributes to teen accidents is distraction. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distraction is a major cause of approximately 60 percent of moderate or severe teen car wrecks.
Teens can easily become distracted with friends in the car, selecting songs to play, eating, smoking, etc. The biggest distraction for teens, of course, is their cell phone. Despite all the national publicity about the dangers of texting while driving, anti-texting school campaigns, and parental warnings, many teens continue to text while behind the wheel.
A few other factors that put teens at risk of crashing include:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Not recognizing dangerous situations
- Driving while tired (due to homework and extracurricular and social activities, many teens do not get enough sleep)
What options for financial recovery do you have?
Your Own Insurance
All drivers must carry no-fault Medical Benefits coverage. The minimum amount in Pennsylvania is $5,000.00; but you may have purchased more than the minimum coverage. So if your teen was in an accident, they can bring a first-party claim with your insurance policy for their medical expenses, regardless of who or what caused the accident. Your policy may also include wage loss coverage (which is an optional coverage). If your teen was employed at the time of the accident, they can make a wage loss claim.
File a Claim Against the Other Driver
Insurers must also give drivers the option of choosing between full tort and limited tort coverage. This is where it gets complicated.
Full tort insurance allows you to file a claim against the at-fault driver for the entirety of your damages – both economic and noneconomic.
Limited tort insurance allows you to file a liability claim against the other driver, but only allows you to recover economic damages. You are only able to recover noneconomic damages like pain and suffering if you can meet certain criteria:
- The victim was a pedestrian/cyclist
- The other driver was intoxicated
- The other driver does not have insurance
- The other driver intended to injure you or himself
- The accident resulted from a defect
- The vehicle which your teen was in was not a private passenger motor vehicle
- Your teen sustained a serious injury including death, serious impairment of a bodily function or disfigurement
In order to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit, however, you must be able to prove that the other driver caused the accident. Teens are at a disadvantage in car accident cases because insurers and older drivers tend to pin blame on teens simply for their age — even when the teen did not cause the accident. However, the crash is not always the teen’s fault and the personal injury attorneys at Berger and Green can help determine and prove who was really at fault. It may also be that your teen was an innocent passenger in a single-vehicle accident caused by another teen’s negligence or recklessness.
If you decide to file against the other driver, you will want to seek an attorney’s help with substantiating the claim.
What if my teen was partly responsible for the accident?
If your teen was partly responsible for the crash, then there is still a chance you can recover partial damages from the other driver. Pennsylvania adheres to a rule called the comparative negligence law, detailed in Pa. Statutes § 7102.
This law provides that a person injured by another’s negligence (plaintiff) can take legal action against and pursue compensation from the other party (defendant), so long as the plaintiff is not more than 50 percent at fault.
So let us say another driver failed to yield right of way to your teen daughter and collided with her. However, your teen would have been able to avoid the collision had she not been looking down at her phone. In this scenario, the insurer or courts might assign the defendant with 75 percent fault, and your daughter with 25 percent. Under the comparative negligence law, you can still obtain compensation, but your teen’s degree of fault would reduce the possible settlement or verdict (in this case, by 25 percent).
What types of damages are compensable?
In addition to the no fault/first party claim discussed above that you can file with your own insurer for medical bills and wages, you are entitled to file a claim against a negligent driver, and the damages will depend on whether your teen is limited by a limited tort election.
If limited tort applies there is still a claim for medical bills in excess of your own coverage and wage loss not covered by your insurance. Future lost earning capacity is also recoverable under the limited tort limitation. However, the presence of such a loss can often take the case out of limited tort.
If limited tort seems to apply, be careful about settling too soon without consulting a lawyer because if the injury persists or worsens, the claim could become eligible for full tort damages. However, a settlement could bar such a recovery.
If you have limited tort, you will not be able to recover for mental anguish or pain and suffering.
However, if full tort applies — or if you can prove the necessary criteria — and opt to file a negligence claim against the other driver, you can obtain compensation for various losses, including:
- Medical and rehabilitation bills in excess of your first-party coverage
- Lost wages (This may be a little tricky given that your teen may have a short or irregular work history. You can speak to one of our attorneys to sort that part out.)
- If the injuries are permanent, your teen could recover lost future earning capacity due to future full or partial disability caused by the accident, even if your teen was not working at the time.
- Mental and emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of life’s pleasures.
What is my first step when filing a teen car accident claim?
Before you file any claims or decide which legal route to take, run your case by one of our teen car accident lawyers in Pittsburgh at Berger and Green. The consultation is free. We can examine the facts of the case, collect evidence, estimate the value of your claim, and determine the optimal way to handle the legal side of things.
By seeking counsel first, you can make informed decisions, ensure the other driver is unable to blame your teen for the accident, and recover the maximum damages possible. Our team has helped thousands of victims injured in accidents obtain large settlements and verdicts for their losses. Feel free to check out some of our case results and testimonials before your consultation.
Contact us today at 412-661-1400 to get started.