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New Jersey teen dies when 17-year-old driver loses control

Bergen County parents with teens get nervous around this time of year and it's not just about grades. Prom season's coming. The National Highway Transportation Administration reported 91 traffic fatalities in 2011 among 15- to 20-year-old drivers in New Jersey. Nearly one fourth of all fatal crashes nationwide among young drivers were alcohol-related.

Authorities in Passaic County haven't reported whether alcohol or other intoxicating substances are suspected in a Wayne Township teen's fatal car accident. The investigation remains active. Police also haven't identified the two boys involved in the crash, but high school students and community members have confirmed a local family's loss.

Police confirmed that two 17-year-olds were riding in an Infiniti G35 when the teen driver lost control and crossed the center line into oncoming traffic. The Infiniti was struck by a car operated by a Paterson driver. The passenger in the Infiniti, who classmates said was a Wayne Valley High School student, died of his injuries. The Infiniti driver suffered slight injuries.

After tragedies like this, there are legal questions. Can a victim's family sue a minor for wrongful death? Are parents liable for personal injury or wrongful death caused by a minor child?

The answers are as individual as the states where an accident takes place. Damage awards are approved when parties are found negligent. Under certain conditions, that can mean a minor may be named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit and parents may be liable, too.

Courts know that parents can't watch a teen 24 hours a day. Minors do things without parents knowing about it. The line for parental liability usually is drawn at the adults' knowledge of a teen's behavior. For example, parents who know a teen has a history of driving recklessly, but still hand over the car keys, might be considered negligent. Personal injury attorneys can help victims and families determine who can be held liable for civil damages so that they can seek justice and compensation for financial costs and damages resulting from an accident.

Source: The Record, "Solemn vigil mourns Wayne teen who died in car crash" Mary Diduch, Aaron Morrison and Linh Tat, Apr. 05, 2014

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