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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Unlicensed Teen Drivers in Fatal Car Accidents

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A total of ten people, nine teenagers, died on Southern California roadways this past weekend.

A fatal accident also left five dead when three vehicles collided and burst into flames on an isolated two-lane road.  The only survivor was an unlicensed 16-year-old driver of a Honda Civic. The deceased included four teens in a Chevy truck and a 47-year-old man in a Honda Accord.  The 16-year-old driver was in serious condition with a head injury after undergoing surgery.

Later that day, a fatal accident took the lives of five teens returning from the Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in Buena Park.  The accident occurred when a 1995 BMW sedan veered off I5, hit a guardrail, and continued up an embankment before coming to rest on a concrete retaining wall, where it became engulfed in flames.  The deceased teens, three boys (ages 14 and 15) and two girls (ages not released), were burned beyond recognition. The sole survivor was the 16-year-old unlicensed driver.  He underwent surgery for a skull fracture and was listed in serious but stable condition.  The California Highway Patrol said that both girls and one of the boys killed were not wearing a seat belt.  What led up to this fatal accident was not immediately known, although skid marks on the freeway and the distance the car traveled after hitting the guardrail suggests speed possibly played a role.  The accident occurred about 2:15 a.m.

Even if the 16-year-old drivers in these accidents had a valid license, they would still have been driving illegally.  Under California law, drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. or carrying passengers younger than 20 for the first 12 months they are licensed unless the driver is accompanied by a parent or guardian or other person specified by law.

These tragic accidents illustrate how dangerous it can be for teens to drive without proper training and a valid driver’s license. It is unknown whether the families of the deceased will consider a wrongful death lawsuit. If they do, it can be very difficult to recover financial compensation from an unlicensed driver. Furthermore, California drivers cannot obtain auto liability insurance without a drivers’ license, so an unlicensed driver also means an uninsured driver.  This is why it is recommended that drivers carry uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage, if available.

Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage protects drivers when the other driver either doesn’t have enough auto insurance or none at all.  Uninsured motorist coverage is usually optional coverage that can be purchased from your auto insurance company to cover damages caused by the negligence of a person with no insurance (or a hit & run vehicle). The estate of the deceased could potentially collect damages from their own insurance company up to the limits of their uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage is a substitute for the defendant’s liability coverage. The uninsured motorist must be the at-fault driver for you to collect damages under your underinsured motorist coverage. In my opinion, you should purchase the maximum allowed in your state (or the most coverage you can afford) to protect yourself from catastrophe caused by an uninsured driver.  This applies to under-insured motorist coverage, as well. The difference is that with under-insured, you are protecting yourself in a situation where the at-fault driver has insurance, but only has limited coverage that will not adequately compensate you for a serious injury.

Lawsuit Financial, the pro-justice lawsuit funding company urges you call your agent today and ask him/her if you have either or both of coverage. If you don’t, purchase the maximum limits you can afford.