Car Accident Liability for Disabled and Restricted Drivers

When a driver has a disability and/or certain restrictions on their driving privileges, it can become a factor in a car accident injury claim.

By , J.D. | Updated By David Goguen, J.D.
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  • All states permit people with disabilities to obtain a driver's license, unless the disability would inhibit the safe operation of a vehicle. And many drivers (including teens and those with certain disabilities) are issued licenses that place restrictions on the driving privilege.

    Disabled/restricted driver status usually won't have much of an impact on a car accident claim, except in a few specific instances. Read on for the details.

    What is a Disabled or Restricted Driver?

    A disabled driver is typically defined as one who is unable to safely operate a motor vehicle without some type of special accommodation. For example, a driver who does not have the full use of his legs might utilize some type of hand controls in the vehicle, in lieu of pedals. A driver who is disabled would typically have that disability status noted on his or her driver's license.

    A restricted driver is one who has some type of limitation placed on his/her driving privileges. Common types of restricted drivers include teen drivers and people who have to wear corrective lenses in order to drive safely. In certain states, drivers under the age of 18 aren't allowed to have minor passengers in their vehicles, or they may only be allowed to drive during certain times. The restricted status of these drivers is usually noted on their driver's license.

    Car Accident Fault Basics

    All drivers have a legal duty to obey the traffic laws and to drive in a safe, non-negligent manner. In a nutshell (and in the context of a car accident claim), negligence refers to a driver's failure to act with reasonable care, when that failure (called a "breach" of care) causes injury (damages) to someone else -- including another driver, a passenger, or pedestrian.

    Negligence is based on what lawyers call the "reasonable person" standard. A driver's actions in connection with a crash are measured against what a reasonable person would have done (or not done). A driver who deviates from this "reasonable person" standard will likely be found at fault for any resulting car accident.

    Besides the duty to obey traffic laws, all drivers have a duty to be reasonably aware of what is around them -- other vehicles, pedestrians, traffic control devices, and the like. As a general rule, if a driver fails to see or notice what is plainly there to be seen, or is unable to see what is there to be seen, and an accident results, that driver is likely going to be found negligent.

    Learn more about car accidents caused by negligence.

    Disabled/Restricted Status and Car Accident Liability

    Presumably, any driver who has received a license has proved that he/she has the physical ability to drive a car safely. So, the law treats disabled/restricted drivers just like any other driver. If a disabled/restricted driver gets into a traffic accident, the standard rule of negligence will apply to determine the extent (if any) of the driver's liability.

    However, there is usually at least one additional factor to consider when assessing the potential negligence of a disabled or restricted driver. Since disabled and restricted drivers must abide by the restrictions placed on their driving privileges, failure to do so will almost always be a violation of a traffic law, which typically amounts to textbook negligence. Let's look at a few examples.

    Let's say that a 17-year-old driver is licensed in a state that prohibits drivers of that age from carrying any non-family passengers in their vehicle. If that driver gets into a car accident while driving two friends as passengers, he/she will likely be given a ticket for violating the traffic laws, and anyone injured in the accident will have a much easier time of establishing the teenage driver's liability.

    Similarly, if a disabled driver is required to utilize certain special assistive equipment in order to operate a vehicle, and the driver fails to use that equipment (or fails to properly maintain it), and that failure plays a part in causing a car accident, a traffic citation will almost certainly be issued. Anyone injured in the accident will be able to use the citation as clear evidence of the disabled driver's negligence.

    Learn more about proving fault for a car accident.

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