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I Was in a Car Crash with a Teen Drunk Driver: Who Can I Sue?


When a person’s negligent behavior, such as driving drunk and causing an accident, causes injuries and losses to someone else, the injured person can pursue legal action to recover compensation for their medical care, lost wages, pain and suffering and any other losses related to the crash. However, when the driver responsible for the crash is a teen, it is sometimes their parents who are held responsible for the actions of their child.

An 18-year-old is a legal adult and is therefore legally responsible for his or her actions, but a 16 or 17-year-old driver is a minor, which means there are different rules and law that may apply. In cases where the plaintiff (the injured person) files an injury lawsuit against the teen’s parents, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to show that the teen’s negligence caused the accident, and that the negligence caused the injury. If the teen driver that caused the accident was driving drunk, it will not likely be difficult to prove negligence.

In Oklahoma, parents are liable, in certain circumstances, for their minor’s driving, and any negligence on the part of the minor may be imputed to the parent who signed their driver’s license application. You can see the list of potential punishments for minors here: Okla. Stat. Ann. Tit. 47, § 6-107.

Oklahoma dram shop liability

Drivers who suffer an injury because of a drunk driver who caused an auto accident may be able to hold the restaurant or bar that served the driver responsible for the damage the driver does when they leave the establishment and drive home. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has held that establishments that serve alcohol have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid serving more alcohol to customers who are already visibly intoxicated.

A teen driver of 16 or 17 is not likely to be served alcohol at a restaurant or bar given that the legal drinking age is 21, but Oklahoma has social host liability, which means that hosts are civilly liable for the injuries and damages caused by the underage drinkers that they have served. If a teen attends a party, or visits a friend’s home and is served alcohol, the host parent may be held responsible.

There are also criminal penalties for adults who serve alcohol to minors. Oklahoma law says, “A. No person shall knowingly and willfully permit any individual under 21 years of age who is an invitee to the person’s residence, any building, structure, or room owned, occupied, leased or otherwise procured by the person or on any land owned, occupied, leased or otherwise procured by the person, to possess or consume any alcoholic beverage as defined by §506 of this title, any low-point beer as defined by §163.2 of this title, any controlled dangerous substance as defined in the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, or any combination thereof, in such place.” (Okla. Stat. tit. 37, §8.2)

Dealing with recovering compensation when you have been injured in a car crash that was caused by a drunk teen driver might seem complicated, but an experienced auto accident attorney from the Stipe Law Firm can get the answers you need.

Stipe Law Firm is the name Oklahomans trust when they or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car crash. To schedule a consultation with an experienced auto accident attorney, you are welcome to contact our McAlester office at (918) 505-7741 or use our contact form. We are proud to serve clients throughout the Southeast region of Oklahoma.