Recently, a 17-year-old student from Norwell High School was killed in a one-vehicle accident in Marshfield, Massachusetts in the early morning hours when the vehicle in which he and two other teens were in crossed over a double yellow line on Forest Street and crashed into a tree. All three of the occupants were trapped in the vehicle and had to be extricated by police and first responders.
16 Year Old Car Accident Victim
The vehicle was being driven by a 16-year-old who suffered serious injuries along with another 16-year-old passenger. No further details were given about the accident or why their vehicle suddenly crossed the roadway and into a tree. Speed, distracted driving, fatigue, or drug and alcohol use are the usual factors in such accidents.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. Per miles driven, teens aged 16-19 are three times more likely to be in a fatal car accident than drivers aged 20 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Adding to the risk is the presence of teen passengers in the vehicle with an unsupervised teen driver. For 16-year-old drivers, the risk is 1.5 times as high for them as for drivers aged 18-19 years.
Factors Leading to Teen Car Crashes
There are numerous reasons for why teen drivers are at such a high risk for car accidents. These are:
- Inexperience—the only real way to drive safely is to drive in a variety of situations while being cautious and obeying the traffic laws. But not knowing how to react in certain situations or when hazards appear or should be anticipated can be deadly.
- Driving at night—a study from the National Household Travel Survey found that drivers 16-19 were nearly 3 times more likely to be in a nighttime fatal accident than drivers 30 and older. Also, nearly 40% of fatal car crashes involving teens occurred between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
- Seat belt usage in Massachusetts among all drivers is among the worst in the nation. Teens are especially negligent in not using seat belts. A 2019 study indicated that over 40% of high school aged drivers do not wear seat belts.
- Drug and alcohol use—underaged drinking and drug use is high among this group. Many have little experience in driving high or even with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level below the legal limit. In 2019, 24% of drivers aged 15-20 who were killed in car accidents had alcohol in their system. Use of cannabis while driving can impair driving and is worse when combined with alcohol.
- Speeding—either showing off or just wanting to race down a city street or highway is risky for any driver, but teens are especially vulnerable to such behavior.
- Distracted driving—resisting the urge to text, read, take photos, or otherwise use a cellphone while driving is even harder for teens who consider their cellphone as just another appendage.
Efforts to Address Risky Teen Driving
Most high schools have programs directed at teens to address the dangers of risky behavior while driving. All high school students should be required to take a class or to participate in safety programs that urge teens to refrain from dangerous conduct that can kill them, their passengers, or others on the roadways.
GDL or graduated driving licensing systems, are in every state. These limit teen drivers by requiring longer practice periods, limiting driving during certain hours or while unsupervised, and requiring greater participation by parents. As a parent, you can set an example for your teen by buckling up, turning off your cell phone, and explaining how risky behavior can lead to tragic results. Show newspaper or internet photos and reports of teens killed from speeding, drinking, texting, or other dangerous behavior.
Our state can help with the incidence of poor seat belt usage by making seat belt violations a primary offense. Currently, law enforcement cannot stop and ticket a driver for not wearing a seat belt unless the motorist has committed some other traffic violation.
Liability and Damages in Teen Car Accident Injury Claims
The passenger who was injured and the family of the deceased teen who was also a passenger in the Marshfield accident can bring a claim against the driver for causing their injuries. All motorists, regardless of age or experience, have the same duty to exercise care while operating a motor vehicle. The surviving teens in the accident will hopefully be forthright in explaining why their vehicle suddenly left the roadway that could pin liability on the driver.
Typically, auto insurance policies are woefully inadequate in cases of severe or fatal injuries. Unless an experienced car accident lawyer can find other responsible parties, the injured victim and the decedent’s family will not be sufficiently compensated.
For example, if this section of roadway had been the scene of numerous prior accidents where vehicles had crossed the double yellow line, then a car accident lawyer could argue that a median should have been considered and installed to prevent such occurrences. Or the vehicle might have experienced steering or braking issues. If so, the vehicle manufacturer or whoever negligently serviced the vehicle might be liable. Defects in highway design are often explored in such cases to see if a dangerous curve, lack of signage warning of a dangerous curve, or some other failure by a municipality to properly maintain the roadway and account for dangerous situations could result in liability on the city, county, state, or other entities.
Damages in car accident injury claims vary widely. The categories of damages may include:
- Past and future income loss
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of earning capacity
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Diminished quality of life
- Emotional distress
Also, the spouse of an injured party can bring a separate claim for loss of consortium.
Retain a Car Accident Lawyer from Burns and Jain
Only an experienced car accident lawyer can get you the compensation your case deserves. Handling a claim yourself can seriously jeopardize your chances of obtaining a satisfactory resolution of your claim. Call the law firm of Burns and Jain at (617) 227-7423 for a free, in-depth consultation about your injury claim.