You carefully trained your teen in what to do while driving: how to manage bad weather, how to drive in the dark, and how to avoid distractions. Many parents, however, forget to instruct their teen on one critical facet of driving: what to do after an accident.
Teens between the ages of 16 and 19 have a higher accident risk than any other age level. That risk is even higher in the first three months after your teen gets his license. Have you prepared your teen for how to handle it if he does get involved in an accident?
Preparing Ahead of Time
Long before an accident occurs, make sure that you set your teen up for success. You should:
Add your teen to your insurance. Adding teen drivers to your insurance can lead to a sharp increase in your premiums. Failing to add your teen, however, can leave him uninsured if an accident does occur.
Put insurance cards in any vehicle your teen could drive. If you usually keep your insurance card in your wallet, make sure you have at least one in any vehicle your teen will likely drive. Make sure he knows where to find it. Keep it in the glove box, in an easy-to-find location.
Set boundaries. Make sure your teen knows what you expect of him when behind the wheel.
Having a Conversation About Accidents: What Does Your Teen Need to Know?
Before you set your teen off with his license for the first time, make sure he knows exactly what he should do in the event of an accident. An auto accident can cause a flood of adrenaline, making it difficult for your teen to make smart decisions or reason through even what seems a logical process. By preparing your teen ahead of time, on the other hand, you increase the odds that he will know what to do if he ends up in an accident, whether his fault or someone else’s.
1. Wait at the scene of the accident for the police to arrive. Instruct your teen to call 911 to report the accident and remain at the scene of the accident until the police arrive. Remind him that only two circumstances allow him to leave: if he needs to leave in order to seek medical attention, or if he feels unsafe for some reason at the scene of the accident. Let your teen know that he does have the right to leave the scene of the accident if he feels unsafe: for example, if the driver of the other vehicle gets out and starts threatening him, he can leave the scene of the accident and report his location to the police.
2. Remember not to verbally claim responsibility for the accident. As an experienced driver, you likely already know that you need to avoid claiming responsibility for an accident if at all possible. While your teen should report honestly to the officer who responds to the scene, he should avoid any incriminating statements about the accident itself. Remind your teen that he should not apologize for an accident not his fault, even if the other driver behaves aggressively.
3. Call Mom or Dad as soon as possible. Instruct your teen to call a parental authority figure as soon after the accident as possible. Create an environment where your teen will know that you will not “just get mad at him” or otherwise make the situation worse. Instead, remind him that he needs to notify you so that you can help him take the right steps, including notifying your insurance company about the accident.
4. Prioritize medical attention if needed. If an ambulance responds to the scene of the accident, it will automatically take underage teen drivers to the hospital. After your teen turns eighteen, however—even if he is just eighteen or nineteen—he can decide to forego medical attention. Remind your teen that, following a car accident, he should seek medical attention immediately, even if he thinks he did not suffer serious injuries. While he may not have to go straight to the emergency room for a fender bender, he should always seek medical attention after a serious accident. Remind him that many injuries, including traumatic brain injury or chest contusions, may not show up immediately after the accident. In some cases, adrenaline from the accident can conceal the pain from those injuries for some time.
Let your teen know that seeking or not seeking medical attention does not represent strength or weakness. After an auto accident, seeking medical attention can actually prove very smart. If the other driver caused the accident, your teen may have the right to file a personal injury claim. The trip to the emergency room establishes exactly when those injuries took place, which can help build that personal injury claim.
5. Collect evidence if possible. Let your teen know that he should make medical attention his first priority, especially if he believes he suffered a serious injury. However, if he can move around the scene of the accident without putting himself in danger, he may want to collect some evidence from the accident. This may include snapping photos of the cars, which can show both their position at the time of the accident and the damage to both vehicles, or taking contact information from witnesses in case he needs to contact them later.
Teaching your teen to drive can involve plenty of complicated instructions. As part of that instruction, however, you should make sure that your teen knows exactly what to do in the event of an accident. Having that information already in his head can make it easier for him to follow the right steps, protecting his license and the family finances after an accident.
Did your teen suffer injuries in a car accident? You may need a personal injury attorney to help you seek the compensation he deserves. Contact Allan Berger and Associates today at 504-526-2222 to learn more about his legal rights after an accident.