Permit and young drivers are inexperienced on the road, which can lead to serious consequences in the event of a crash. While you may take extra precautions to protect yourself and your own passengers, you can’t prevent the negligent actions of others. So what happens when a permit driver causes an accident? Below we discuss Florida law as it relates to permit and youthful drivers, liability in these situations, and next steps to give you information about how to handle a crash caused by a permit driver.
Florida Laws Related to Permit and Young Drivers
Florida’s laws require a young driver to first obtain a learner’s permit if they meet certain qualifications. An individual must be at least 15 years old to get a learner’s permit and they must pass a written examination. With a learner’s permit, a youthful driver must adhere to certain strict rules. First, they must have a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old with them at all times as a front-seat passenger while operating a vehicle. Next, for the first three months after obtaining a permit, they can only operate a motor vehicle during daylight hours. After that, they can only operate a motor vehicle until 10:00 pm.After a young driver holds a learner’s permit for one year (regardless of the date when they obtained their learner’s permit), they become eligible to obtain a full operator’s license. At the earliest, a youthful driver who obtained a learner’s permit on their 15th birthday would be eligible to obtain a full operator’s license on their 16th birthday. With an operator’s license, these young drivers can operate motor vehicles with no restrictions of being accompanied by more experienced drivers at any time of day or night.For one of these youthful drivers to obtain either a learner or operator’s license, a parent must cosign the application for the license. Although most parents don’t realize it, by cosigning the application, they agree to be legally liable for any accident that the minor driver causes pursuant to Florida Statutes. This continues until the young driver turns 18.One additional way that others may be responsible for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle by a youthful driver is by virtue of ownership of a motor vehicle. In Florida, and absent some very rare exceptions, a person under 18 cannot legally own or register a motor vehicle. Accordingly, any motor vehicle owner on the roadways must be more than 18 years old. Any motor vehicle owner who allows another to operate their motor vehicle with their knowledge and consent is liable for the negligence of their permissive operator, even if the owner has no fault of their own. This is known as vicarious liability pursuant to Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine. Also, this same rule applies even when the permissive driver is over the age of 18.
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Common Reasons Permit Drivers and Young Drivers Get Into Accidents
Young drivers and permit drivers are two different groups that often overlap, but not all permit drivers are young drivers and not all young drivers are permit drivers. While these two groups may share in a general lack of experience when it comes to driving, there are other factors that may also influence their behavior on the road.
Young drivers who have their permits are more likely to engage in reckless behavior given their age and social environments, whereas a permit driver who’s not a teen may be inexperienced but still refrain from engaging in the same reckless behavior.
Keeping this nuance in mind, some common reasons why inexperienced drivers get into accidents include:
- Distracted driving. Distracted driving is a growing problem among all groups of drivers since the advent of cell phones and other handheld devices. Inexperienced drivers on the road are even more prone to causing an accident while using a device behind the wheel.
- Speeding. As young, inexperienced, and permit drivers become more comfortable behind the wheel, they may feel tempted to drive at higher speeds, especially in familiar areas. While the goal of permit driving is to get more comfortable operating a vehicle, this boost in confidence may not be as warranted as new drivers may believe it to be. Since driving at quicker speeds limits a person’s time to respond to sudden stops, changes in traffic, roadway debris, or emergencies, the likelihood that these inexperienced drivers may cause a crash increases.
- Drunk driving. Drunk driving is dangerous, as an individual’s motor functions and powers of decision-making are significantly impaired while under the influence of alcohol. Young drivers are more likely to engage in drunk driving as a result of social pressures and environments, thus increasing their odds of causing an accident.
- Social influences. Another common cause of accidents among inexperienced drivers involves social influences. A Kansas City University study found that male teen drivers are more likely than their female counterparts to speed, drive while under the influence of alcohol, engage in reckless driving, cause felony crashes (hit-and-run, vehicular manslaughter), and fatally injure themselves or others in accidents. Female teen drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents at intersections and with pedestrians, as well as drive with restricted licenses.
Who’s Liable If a Young Driver or Permit Driver Causes an Accident?
Drivers 18 or older don’t need a parent or guardian to sign off on their driving application, which means liability for accidents usually falls on the permit driver. This means that permit drivers who are not teens or who don’t require a parent or guardian to sign onto their driving application are typically found fully responsible for their own actions when behind the wheel. However, if an individual allows a permit driver to use a vehicle registered in their name, this person may be held liable for an accident caused by the permit driver if that vehicle is involved.
If a young driver causes an accident, their parent or guardian may be held liable for the incident, depending on certain factors. The first thing considered is the permit driver’s age. If they’re under 18, the adult who signed off on their driving permit application may be held partially liable for the accident, in addition to the young driver.
A permit driver may be held fully liable for an accident they caused even if they were following all the rules associated with Florida’s permit laws. This means that a permit driver may still be found negligent in causing an accident even if they were driving within the allotted time frames outlined by Florida’s laws and with an appropriate supervisor in the passenger seat.
If a parent or guardian allowed a permit or young driver to operate their vehicle unsupervised, they may be held fully liable for an accident the driver caused. This is because signing off on the permit driver’s application also meant ensuring the youthful driver would abide by Florida’s laws concerning supervision of the permit driver. Alternatively, if the parent or guardian didn’t know the permit driver was using their vehicle at the time of the accident, this person may not be held fully or even partially liable for the incident.
For both young drivers and inexperienced permit drivers, the use of a vehicle doesn’t necessarily require formal expression or written consent. The court may rule that the frequent use of the vehicle by an individual, or an individual living in the same household as the registered vehicle’s owner, may be enough to constitute consent to that vehicle’s use by the young driver or permit driver.
Insurance Claims Process When a Permit Driver Is Behind the Wheel During an Accident
When a permit or youthful driver causes an accident in Florida, you may wonder whether the incident will be handled differently than other types of accidents. Generally, this isn’t the case. The biggest difference to expect from a permit driver accident is the involvement of a parent or guardian and their liability for the accident. This means the youthful driver assumes all liability or partial liability shared with their parent or guardian, or the parent or guardian takes full liability for the accident. Regardless, the case will largely be handled like any other accident.
It’s important to understand that Florida is a no-fault state. This means that drivers in the state must carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which covers the driver up to $10,000 for personal injuries and up to $10,000 in property damage, as well as some coverage for children or passengers. This means that fault rarely comes into play for minor accidents.
A youthful or permit driver who causes an accident that results in serious, permanent, or fatal injuries may be sued if the injured party’s PIP insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of their injuries. While fault is considered in these cases, the fact that a youthful or permit driver was involved doesn’t change much; parties who are at fault can be sued for their actions.
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Have You Been in an Accident With a Permit Driver? Contact GED Lawyers to Discuss Your Case
If you were involved in an accident caused by a permit driver, contact GED Lawyers to learn more about Florida’s driving and insurance laws. We can discuss the details of your case in a free initial consultation.