Indiana Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed for 12-Year-Old Car Accident Victim

Teen and pre-teens hanging out at a friend’s house is commonplace on the weekends. Often lacking money to go out, they congregate at a home to visit, play video games, or listen to music. That is probably how the evening of December 9, 2011 started for a group of Indiana kids. Unfortunately, a few people made some bad decisions, and the night ended in tragedy.

Somehow, a 14-year-old boy obtained the keys to a car and took a 13-year-old and 12-year-old for a joyride around 1:00 a.m. A combination of inexperienced driving, a slippery road, and perhaps speed caused the driver to lose control of the car. It slid off the road, rolled over, and landed in a deep ditch. The 12-year-old passenger was killed. The driver and other passenger had some broken bones, but no life-threatening injuries. No one in the car was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

The parents of the deceased victim have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver, both to request damages and to find out what really happened that night. Because the investigation is still open, the victim’s parents do not have access to any police information about the car accident. Their attorney states, “No one really knows the truth. There’s so many different stories about what happened that evening.” Once a lawsuit is filed, witnesses can be called to testify as to how the 14-year-old ended up with the keys to a car and what happened in the moments leading up to the crash.

While no charges have been filed against the driver or the owner of the car, it is possible that both may be charged when the investigation is complete. The driver was operating a car without a valid license, and if speeding was a factor, that could lead to another charge. If it is discovered that the owner of the car knowingly gave the keys to an unlicensed driver, he could be charged with “permitting a violation” under an Indiana state statute.

This case highlights the need for parents to keep talking to their teens about making smart decisions. Because a 17-year-old may have made the bad decision of allowing an under-aged, unlicensed driver take his car for a ride, someone lost his life. Because the 14-year-old decided to drive the car with little or no experience, someone lost his life, and he will have to live with that fact the rest of his life. Because the 13-year-old got in the car with an inexperienced driver, she was injured and witnessed the death of a friend. Because the 12-year-old decided to get in the car with his friends, his life is over. Had they at least decided to wear seatbelts, would that have made a difference? No one may ever know.

What is known is that everyone involved is now grieving and trying to make sense of what happened that night. In a situation like this, it is important to find someone who can put aside the emotions surrounding the event and make rational decisions regarding obtaining information, filing claims, and considering lawsuits if necessary. Kentucky and Indiana personal injury attorney Steve Frederick is experienced in helping families deal with all of the issues involved when a person is injured or a family member is killed in a car accident.


South Bend family files wrongful death suit against 14-year-old driver; South Bend Tribune; Mary Kate Malone; April 23, 2012

St. Joseph County fatal crash could lead to charges; WSBT; Denise Bohn; December 12, 2011