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Student Driver Accidents…Is the Driving School Liable?

When you are in an auto accident with a student driver who has not yet earned a license, your situation is complicated. Can the driver be held to the same standard as licensed drivers? If not, then who’s responsible? The driving school? A parent? Do you, as the victim, have to cover all the losses yourself?

It is a good idea to consult a knowledgeable accident lawyer early on after the collision for advice on handling the situation. Your attorney can investigate to collect evidence against all parties who could be held liable, and your attorney can also represent you in discussions with insurance companies and others involved so that you can focus on your own recovery and avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your claim.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for the Car Crash?

When determining legal liability for a student driver accident, there are several factors to consider. It is important to review the accident circumstances to ascertain what led to the collision and who was to blame for creating that situation. The actual cause of the accident is critical. In most cases, there will be more than one cause, so it is quite likely that more than one party can be held liable.

In addition to considering the causes of the auto accident, it is also necessary to think about people who may be held accountable for the actions of those involved. For instance, the driving school might be held liable for the actions of its employed instructors. Parents might be held liable for the actions of their children. Experienced legal advisors will look into the situation closely to find all potentially responsible parties.

The Driving Instructor

Driving instructors should fulfill certain duties as part of their job. They should teach students safe driving techniques and correct them when they make mistakes. They should watch for dangerous situations, and not direct student drivers into locations where they are likely to be caught up in an accident.

They also should be paying close attention to what the student is doing and anticipate what will happen next. If they neglect responsibilities and an accident results, the instructor could be held liable. If your accident attorneys can show that an instructor was caught up with a distraction, such as a message on a cell phone, then it will be easier to prove liability.

The Driving School

In situations when a driving instructor is responsible for a student driving accident, the school that employed that instructor could also be held liable. The driving school (and their insurer) can be accountable for negligent hiring if they failed to determine the extent of the instructor’s qualifications or whether the instructor had problems with distractions or substance abuse on the job. The school could be responsible for the failure to train or supervise the instructor properly. If there was a problem with the vehicle provided for the student driver by the school, then the school might be liable for improper maintenance or failure to make repairs.

Additionally, the driving school could be held vicariously liable under the theory of respondeat superior. This traditional legal doctrine holds employers accountable for the actions of their employees when the employees commit acts of negligence or other wrongdoing while operating in the scope of their employment. Conduct can be considered in the scope of employment if it:

  • Is the type the employee was hired to perform
  • Occurred in the space and time of employment
  • Was motivated (at least partially) to serve employment.

For instance, if an instructor had a student drive through a dangerous intersection deliberately to make the drive shorter and get back to the driving school faster because the supervisors at the school complained when instructors were late returning, then the employer could be held vicariously liable for that negligent decision on the part of the instructor.  

The Student Driver

Just because a student driver does not yet have a license does not absolve them of responsibility for the actions they take behind the wheel. They might not yet be skilled at parallel parking, but they should know to stop and look for oncoming vehicles and pedestrians at a stop sign. They should know how to read a speed limit sign. When a student driver acts in blatant disregard for the rules of the road, they can be held accountable.

Parents of Student Drivers

Student drivers usually do not have their own car insurance coverage. If they are covered by a parent’s insurance, then that insurance company could be required to pay claims associated with an accident they cause.

In addition, Fla. Stat. §322.09 holds parents or guardians accountable for negligent driving actions of a minor child. So a parent could be held liable for a child’s accident as a student driver.

Third Parties Could Be Liable for an Auto Accident

Skilled attorneys look closely into all the circumstances surrounding an accident not only to uncover evidence of liability but also to determine whether responsibility lies with other individuals—those not directly involved in the collision. For example, a truck driver could fail to properly secure a load, allowing debris to spill onto the road and leading a driver to lose control of a vehicle.

What if the Victim is Partially to Blame?

If your actions contributed to the cause of the accident, that factor will affect the outcome of the case, but it will not necessarily prevent you from recovering compensation from others who were also responsible for the collision. Florida’s comparative fault rule reduces the amount of compensation you would receive to account for your share of causation but allows you to recover for the share of fault attributable to others.

Help After an Car Accident with a Student Driver

Auto accident claims in Florida can be very complicated due to insurance laws and other factors. For your best chance of a full and fair recovery, it is wise to start working with skilled auto accident lawyers soon after an accident. For a free consultation and case evaluation from the experienced legal team at the Maus Law Firm, contact us now.

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