Girardi | Keese

Memorial Day Crash and Graduated Licensing Requirements

As most Californians know, it takes time for new drivers to develop the skills and judgment needed to safely operate a car. Sadly, five teenagers died in a Memorial Day crash that likely involved inexperience on the part of a 17-year-old South California driver.

In cases like this, observers often jump to conclusions and assume that the teenage driver was behaving recklessly or negligently. Contrary to these assumptions, driver inexperience can cause serious or fatal car accidents even when a young driver is carefully trying to follow traffic laws.

This does not mean that a young driver who causes a crash like this cannot be liable. Negligence law in many areas allows a victim's family to pursue a claim based on a doctrine called "negligence per se." Negligence per se allows claims to proceed where a defendant broke a safety-related law - even if the plaintiff cannot show whether any actual negligence occurred.

Under California law, teenage drivers must complete a graduated system of licensing requirements. One of those requirements is that teenage drivers cannot transport passengers under age 20 for the first twelve months. Based on the ages of the victim in this crash, it is possible that the wreck indicates a violation. Depending on a number of different legal rules, this could mean that negligence per se would apply in this kind of car accident case.

Source: Fox News, "5 California high school students identified as victims of fiery car crash," May 29, 2013 

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