It’s back-to-school season, and that means juggling school lunches, sports schedules and carpool routines. Collaborating with other parents on a way to get your brood and theirs off to school can save time and hassle. But if your kids or the kids you’re driving are in a serious car accident, the stress you tried to avoid can turn into something bigger – maybe even a lawsuit.
Carpools are common, and accidents happen. You may imagine horror stories of being sued if you’re the driver in an accident where someone else’s kids are involved, but there are ways to stay protected. You can keep the carpool going, take steps to stay safe, and make sure your finances are safeguarded even after a carpool accident.
Driving without insurance in Alabama is considered a misdemeanor and violates the Mandatory Liability Insurance Act. If you are a parent who is considering letting your kids ride in the car of another driver, you should make sure the driver has insurance first. As kids get older, and teenagers start driving, this becomes more of a consideration.
When you intend to drive others, liability coverage is essential. This helps cover the expenses of other passengers involved in a car accident where you are the driver. You should check that any driver who will drive your child also has liability coverage in case your child is injured in an accident.
If your child will be riding with another driver, underinsured motorist coverage also protects your finances. If the at-fault driver does not have liability insurance, you may have to pay the extra expenses to cover medical bills and damages that are not covered by the other driver’s insurance. In the case of a carpool, the underinsured driver may be the one driving your child, or another driver who causes a carpool accident.
Remove Distractions from Your Car
Distracted driving is a major problem with U.S. motorists, especially teenagers. Distracted driving is to blame for about 25 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities, reports TeenSafe. It’s responsible for more than 58 percent of teen crashes, and teens are the largest age group that has been distracted while driving in fatal crashes. Know these stats before you let your child carpool with a teenager. Take precautions to reinforce non-distracted driving standards for those who drive your kids.
In your own car, make sure you stay safe as a driver by barring distractions from your passengers. Do not allow kids to use electronic devices with sound on – and consider banning them from the car altogether. Make sure everyone is buckled up before you take off, so there’s no need to scramble once you’re on the road. You could even create some sort of quiet game that rewards passengers for staying calm during the ride.
What About Carpool Contracts?
Carpool contracts or liability waivers aren’t likely to mean much after an accident. A person who signs a waiver is not promising acceptance of negligence. Examples of negligence that may contribute to a carpool accident include:
- The driver is using technology while driving
- The driver is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- The driver is distracted in another way, such as by taking their eyes off the road to face a passenger
- The driver takes a call while driving
- The driver uses unsafe driving behaviors, such as speeding or aggressively driving
Someone who signs a waiver would not be granting the driver permission to act with negligence. A waiver is more of a sign of goodwill that in the case of an accident, an insurance claims process would be pursued, with damages being handled that way. But a waiver is never a guarantee, and it won’t be held up in court.
Actions to take after a serious carpool accident depend on whether you are the driver or your child is the passenger.
If You Are the Driver
If you are the driver of a carpool, first consider extra steps to stay protected as a driver. If you intend on driving safely but want to protect yourself from being accused of negligence, you could use a body camera or car camera to record you while driving. If someone accuses you of negligence, you then have video proof of your safe driving behavior.
After a carpool accident where kids are your passengers, make sure kids are in a safe position, and call emergency services. All minors should get check out for possible medical issues, since some may not be able to fully express pain and injuries they have.
Give an honest statement to police, and ask any witnesses at the scene to remain to also talk with police. Document the scene by taking photos of the vehicles and any injuries the passengers have.
Exchange insurance and personal information with the other motorists. Call the parents of the children, let them know what happened, and share the insurance information you have gathered with them. Get a police report number you can share with other parents.
If You’re the Parent of an Injured Child
If you are the parent of an injured child, talk with the parent driver about everything that occurred with the accident. Document the details yourself. Ask for a copy of the police report. Make sure your child gets all adequate medical attention, and keep organized medical records. Ask your child for details about what they can remember that happened before the accident, and document what they say.
If your child is seriously injured or dies while in a carpool vehicle, you should contact a Birmingham car accident attorney. Carpool accidents can get complicated. Even if your friend was the one driving the car, their negligence may have contributed to a serious injury that results in great pain and suffering for your child, plus costly medical bills for your family.
In some cases, a carpool driver may claim it was a child’s fault for the accident, such as accusing the child of distracting them, throwing something on them, spilling something on them, etc. The driver in a carpool accident may even pursue compensation your own family if they want to protect themselves and claim your child was the cause of the accident.
Serious accidents involving your close contacts are rarely a simple, straightforward situation. When serious injuries or even death is involved, contact a lawyer to stay protected.