Learning to drive is a rite of passage that most teenagers eagerly anticipate. Obtaining a driver’s license is often seen as the first major step toward gaining independence and adulthood.
Teenagers and other first-time drivers enrolled in driver’s education schools practice during the behind-the-wheel portion of the course. Instructors are always present, providing learning, guidance, and assistance from the passenger seat, generally always equipped with the ability to intervene and take control of the vehicle if necessary.
Though exciting, driving can also be an overwhelming, and sometimes frightening, experience to new drivers. As any seasoned driver knows, one must see, process, and react to multiple situations at once, and it takes time and practice for that ability to become almost second nature. For new drivers, that type of sudden bombardment can cause them to react impulsively and forget their training, resulting in car accidents.
Typical Student Driver Accidents
Although each is unique, accidents involving student drivers have some commonalities indicative of their lack of experience and their too quick or slower reaction times. For instance, many students are laser-focused on the road directly in front of them, which takes their attention away from who or what is around them. Oftentimes, student drivers fail to notice pedestrians and cyclists, which can lead to accidents if the driver turns just as a pedestrian enters a crosswalk, or makes a sudden lane change, striking the cyclist.
Many student drivers are prone to making simple mistakes, such as running a red light or stop sign, turning abruptly, failing to signal, not fully stopping, and misjudging distance between cars. Though experienced drivers do also make these same accident-causing errors, they are quite common new-driver mistakes.
Who Is Responsible if My Accident Is Caused by a Student Driver?
When car accidents happen, determining who is at fault can be challenging. When the accident involves an unlicensed student driver, there may be more than one responsible party and not necessarily the driver alone. Responsible parties may include the following:
- Student driver: Although student drivers are learning, it is a reasonable assumption that they have a basic understanding of driving laws and operating a vehicle to have obtained their learner’s permit. If the student is driving recklessly, such as speeding, ignoring stop signs and traffic lights, failing to yield, and other behaviors, they are responsible for the accident. Whether fully licensed or not, student drivers have the same responsibility to drive safely and obey the laws as every other licensed driver on the road and can be held liable for damage and injuries caused by the accident.
- Driving instructor: The role of the driving instructor is to provide learning and guidance while the student driver is behind the wheel and is expected to remain alert to the student and other vehicles around them. Instructors are trained to intervene when mistakes are made that could lead to an accident. Driver’s education cars are typically equipped with emergency brakes and, in some states, a steering wheel on the passenger side allowing the instructor to take control to avoid accidents. If instructors are distracted, not paying attention, or fail to take control, then they can be held accountable for damages and injuries resulting from the accident.
- Driving school: The driving school provides the instructor and the vehicle and could be held accountable for the accident if either are found at fault. If the company hired an instructor who is unqualified or has a history of complaints and accidents either before or during employment with the driving school, or failed to properly train the instructor, the company could be liable. Likewise, if the driving school ignored maintenance issues on the vehicle, such as malfunctioning brakes, overdue oil changes, bald tires, nonworking lights, and other repairs, the company could be ultimately responsible for the accident.
- Auto manufacturer: If there is a defect in the driver’s education car that could fail and cause and accident while a student is driving, the auto manufacturer may be at fault. Design or manufacturing errors that could compromise occupant safety should be recalled and addressed. If the manufacturer fails to notify owners and provide the necessary repairs, they could be liable for damage and injuries sustained in the affected model.
How Do I Prove Who Is Responsible?
If you are in a car accident, you will need to be able to provide proof that you are not responsible. Car accidents can happen instantaneously, and it is not always obvious who is responsible just by observing the scene. Many times, drivers have trouble remembering the entire event or have conflicting versions as to what happened. Some drivers take advantage in these situations and attempt to lie about the circumstances in order to shift blame away from themselves.
As previously mentioned, responsibility in accidents involving student drivers may belong to other parties, such as the instructor or driving school. If you are the innocent party, you will likely have to prove your own case that one or more of the parties are responsible to seek damages and medical coverage for injuries. You do have several ways of proving your version of events, such as the following:
- Document evidence: If you are not in need of emergency medical care and remain at the scene, begin gathering evidence. Take photos of everything: placement of the cars, vehicle and surrounding area damage, road conditions, skid marks, signage, injuries, and weather conditions. Ask witnesses for their names and contact information should they need to make statements later and ask them to share any photos or videos they took of the event with you. There should be additional video footage from police bodycams, dashboard cameras, traffic cameras, and security cameras. You will have to request this later, but take photos of the cameras you are able to see at the scene to show video was taken.
- Correct the police report: If you believe the police report taken at the scene is incorrect, you are entitled to a copy of the report and the right to dispute the information within it. The report is only what each driver and witnesses tell the officers on scene. If your injuries required immediate medical attention and you were taken from the scene before speaking to the police, an officer will visit you at the hospital or your home later to get your statement of events. Additionally, if you are taken from the scene, it is always a good idea to request a copy of the report to know what the other driver and witnesses reported and will be an important part of proving your case.
- Hire a lawyer and file a claim: If you are injured, you will need to file suit on the responsible party to receive damages and have your medical bills covered. Accidents can have life-altering consequences, such as a disabling injury that renders you unable to work. In these circumstances, you are entitled to compensation for your loss of wages, continuing future medical coverage, and pain and suffering caused by the accident. Hiring legal representation to fight insurance companies on your behalf is imperative to receive the compensation you are owed.
Mount Laurel Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Assist Clients in Car Accidents Involving Student Drivers
If you were in a car accident involving a student driver, the experienced Mount Laurel car accident lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman are available to help. Our legal team can assist you in determining whether the driver, instructor, driving school, or all three are responsible and help you build your case. Call us at 856-751-2345 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Mount Laurel and surrounding areas.