Who is Liable After a Student Driver Crashes a Car?

by William Mattar | July 21st, 2020

Who is Liable after a Student Driver Crashes a Car?If you are learning to drive, or have a teenager who is learning to drive, you may be enrolled in a driver’s education school. Driving schools, through their instructors, aim to teach learning drivers the rules of the road, such as how to safely operate a car in traffic. It is a great way to get experience driving and gain the confidence needed to become a licensed, competent driver. However, what happens when a student causes a car accident while under the direction of a driving instructor? Who is responsible?

Every case is unique, but here are some things to consider.

Comparative Fault in a Student Driver Accident

New York is considered a “comparative fault” state, which means that more than one party can be legally held responsible in the event of a car accident. Comparative fault determines who is primarily responsible, and who may be partly responsible, for a car crash. This will be decided depending on the circumstances. For example, a student driver may be the main cause of a student driving accident, but another party such as the driving instructor may also bear responsibility.

Student Driver At-Fault

If a student driver causes a car accident as a result of his or her negligence, the student driver may be liable. If the student driver is driving in an unsafe or reckless manner at the time of the car accident, he or she can be held responsible for damages to the vehicle and any injuries suffered. Even those learning to drive have a responsibility to act safely on the roads. This includes obeying traffic lights, traffic control devices, speed limits, and merging and yielding properly.

Driving Instructor At-Fault

One of the main jobs of a driving instructor is to keep an experienced set of eyes on the road while the student is learning how to drive. The student relies on the driving instructor’s experience and guidance. Driving instructors are taught how to intervene in an emergency and are sometimes equipped with vehicle control devices, such as brakes. If a driving instructor fails to intervene in a car accident when it is reasonable to expect that they should have, that instructor may bear some responsibility. A claim against the driving instructor would most likely involve the driving school’s insurance carrier.

Business At-Fault

If the driver education school is the owner of the vehicle, it can be held vicariously liable based on New York’s “permissive use” statute. The driving school can also be held liable if it was negligent in hiring, training, or retaining the driving instructor.  It is also possible that the driving school can be held liable if it was negligent in entrusting the student with the vehicle. If the driving school failed to adequately maintain the vehicle (for example, ineffective brakes), that may also provide a basis for liability.

Car Manufacturer At-Fault

If the vehicle used by a driver education school is defective in some way, resulting in a car accident, the car manufacturer may be held liable. For instance, there could be a manufacturing or design error that results in brake failure while a student driver is behind the wheel of the vehicle. This may indicate that the car manufacturer failed to ensure the vehicle was safe and are therefore liable for any injuries caused by the car crash.

Hurt In A Car? Call William Mattar.

If you have been in a car accident involving a driving instructor’s vehicle, speak with our experienced personal injury attorneys at William Mattar law offices to see what your options are. Every case is unique, and our car accident attorneys can analyze your particular situation. Contact us to file a claim today at (844) 444-4444.