Every student driver must obtain real-world driving experience at some point. While novice drivers need time behind the wheel to improve their skills and build confidence, their lack of experience can put other road users at risk.
When it comes to car accidents involving student drivers, determining who is liable for injuries and property damage that occur can be quite challenging. If you were involved in a crash with a student driver, you have a few legal options.
In Virginia, every new driver under 18 years old must complete a state-approved driver’s education course. The course includes 36 periods of classroom instruction and 14 periods of in-vehicle driving instruction. For half of the in-vehicle instruction, the student observes. For the other half, they take over the wheel. Driver’s education is a requirement to obtain a learner’s permit.
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, several potential parties can be at fault in this type of accident. Listed below are possible liable parties.
Unlicensed drivers have a duty to drive as safely as possible given their training and experience. However, student drivers are afforded a bit more leniency compared to seasoned drivers. If you think back to when you first started driving, you probably recall making some mistakes behind the wheel.
Liability comes into play when an unlicensed driver is blatantly careless or negligent. For example, they may speed, tailgate, or drive while texting in the vehicle. When those reckless actions lead to an accident, the student driver may be held liable for the injuries and damage resulting from their negligence.
Driving instructors are also expected to take the proper steps to ensure the safe operation of their vehicle and to prevent accidents to the best of their ability. In most cases, they have their own set of brakes and can intervene in an emergency situation. If they fail to take all due precautions to avoid an accident, they may be at fault if the student driver causes a crash.
Consumers put their trust in businesses to operate safely. That duty is paramount for driving schools because of the inherent risk to the public created by unlicensed drivers. The person or entity that owns and operates the driving school may bear some culpability for inattentive or unqualified instructors, poorly-maintained vehicles, and unsafe business practices if their negligence leads to an accident.
In some cases, it is not the student driver or the instructor that caused a serious car accident, it is a defective or dangerous part of the vehicle. When brakes, tires, and other systems fail and lead to a crash, people can get hurt. If it is shown the vehicle designer, manufacturer, or seller knew or should have been aware of the defective parts or equipment that led to an accident, the injured party may have cause to bring a legal claim against the responsible party.
Who Can Be Injured?
Crashes involving student drivers can involve three types of injured parties:
- Drivers and/or passengers in other vehicles: It is not uncommon for novice drivers to unintentionally make dangerous errors, like running a stop sign or pulling out into traffic without looking. While more seasoned drivers may be extra cautious around student drivers, it is not always possible to avoid them. One mistake can leave other drivers and their passengers with serious injuries.
- Passengers in the student’s vehicle: When a student driver causes a collision, the instructor sitting at their side can be seriously hurt. Some driving schools also permit multiple students to ride in the same vehicle, each taking turns behind the wheel. Those backseat passengers are also at risk of harm.
- Cyclists or pedestrians: Since many student drivers practice in residential areas, people who are walking, jogging, or riding their bike may be at risk. Pedestrians and cyclists should never assume a student driver will stop to allow them to cross or share the road with cyclists.
Everyone, including pedestrians, should take a defensive approach when traveling in the vicinity of a student driver.
Insurance Claims for Accidents Involving Student Drivers
Once liability has been determined, the injured person must assess the best course of action to pursue justice. Most private driving schools carry auto insurance to cover all of the vehicles and students taking their course. In fact, some insurance companies offer policies specifically designed for driver’s education schools.
The most straightforward course of action for an injured party is to file a claim against the school’s insurance. The school would use their insurance to cover the costs of repairs and other accident-related expenses.
Personal Injury Claims
While an insurance claim is a viable solution for individuals who suffer minor injuries and auto damage, oftentimes, medical bills, lost income, and other losses far exceed policy limits. Additionally, the driving school may deny liability and refuse to cover damages altogether.
If that happens, the injured party may consider taking legal action in the form of a personal injury claim against a negligent student driver, school, or instructor. Someone who has been injured in an accident directly caused by another’s negligence may be entitled to compensation for emotional and physical pain and suffering, accident-related medical costs, both past and future, and lost income.
What Should I Do After a Crash With a Student Driver?
Since claims involving third-party driving schools and student drivers are complex, it is important to take the proper steps to protect your rights and your claim after a crash. Some important steps to take include:
- Get medical attention. As with any sort of auto accident, the first step is to get medical attention for anyone who has been hurt. Call 911 in an emergency situation. It is also important to go to your doctor for a follow-up appointment.
- File a police report. Once injured parties have been helped, the next step is to file a police report. Tell the officer at the scene exactly what happened to the best of your recollection. All involved drivers should provide their driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
- Write down contact information. Be sure to write down contact information of the other driver and their instructor.
- Talk to a lawyer. Once you are home safe, your next call should be to an experienced car accident lawyer to explain your situation and to learn more about your legal options. A lawyer’s guidance can be invaluable after an accident, especially if you are dealing with a driving school, a novice driver, or an insurance company that is reluctant to compensate you for your losses.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Represent Clients Harmed by Reckless Drivers
If you have been injured in an accident that involved a student driver, speak to one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers today. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, our goal is to prove the facts of your case and show that the other party is liable. Call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form today to schedule a free consultation and to learn more. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carol