If a passenger contributes to a car crash, they may be held accountable for any damages sustained. When a car accident occurs, it is typically presumed that the driver demonstrated negligent behavior, such as following too closely, texting while driving, or speeding. While the driver is in charge of the vehicle, the passenger may impair the driver’s ability to drive safely.
Passengers have the responsibility to uphold a duty of care that protects themselves and actively encourages safe driving to the fullest extent. The mere fact that a passenger is not driving the car does not give them the right to endanger the lives of other occupants, motorists, or pedestrians.
Ultimately, the specific facts of the collision will determine whether or not a passenger is to blame for an accident. This article will cover the basics of passenger-caused accidents, shedding light on instances in which a passenger could cause a wreck, how liability is proven when a passenger is at fault, and if there are legal repercussions for their actions.
Under What Circumstances Can a Passenger be Sued for Causing a Car Accident?
Each state has its own requirements for suing a passenger in an automobile accident, but instances of culpability may look like grabbing the wheel, physically impairing the driver, and causing a diversion that takes the driver’s eyes away from the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 36,120 people died in U.S. car accidents in 2019. It is not clear how many of these fatalities were caused by passengers, but it is common knowledge that passengers can contribute to collisions by:
- Distracting the driver by diverting their attention
- Interfering with the vehicle’s functioning such as pulling the emergency brake
- Disobeying safety guidelines like standing up in a sunroof while the car is moving
Passengers are expected to ensure their own safety and the safety of other drivers on the road by obeying traffic regulations, using seat belts, and putting away their phones.
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How Can a Passenger’s Liability in a Car Accident be Proven?
Eyewitness testimony, evidence, and the accident investigation can all be used to prove fault. In complicated cases, an accident reconstructionist can be hired to recreate the collision based on the aforementioned elements. Factors that can impact a passenger’s liability include:
Circumstances of the Accident
Depending on a state’s or jurisdiction’s laws, there could be differences in how responsibility is assessed. The number of persons involved and the many ways in which a passenger may have contributed to an accident may alter the criteria used to determine who is to blame, such as whether the passenger physically impaired the driver or encouraged speeding.
Many states practice comparative negligence in which parties at fault can still win a settlement in proportion to the extent of damages they are responsible for.
However, some states follow the contributory negligence law under which shared fault results in no compensation. In the case of accidents caused by a passenger, this can become complicated very quickly. It is best to have a vehicle accident lawyer advise you of what your legal alternatives are.
Negligence Per Se
This term means negligence in itself and alludes to instances where the driver was already negligent, such as by running a stop sign or speeding, and the passenger may have grabbed them, resulting in a crash.
What Happens When a Passenger Is at Fault in a Car Crash?
A passenger may be held responsible for the accident’s damages, such as medical bills, property damage, emotional distress, wrongful death, and more, if they are determined to be at fault. The specific legal consequences will vary depending on the accident’s circumstances, including the state’s laws, the passenger’s behavior, and the extent of the damages.
In situations where the driver of the vehicle was aware of the passenger’s reckless conduct, such as taking their eyes off the road to view something on the passenger’s phone or allowing the passenger to encourage them to speed, the driver may be held partially or entirely at fault for the auto wreck.
If you were involved in an accident where the passenger caused the crash or you were the passenger who contributed to the accident, then the best course of action for protection is to consult with an experienced vehicle accident lawyer nearest you.
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Whose Insurance Covers a Passenger-Related Accident?
Coverage for medical expenses and property damages in a passenger-related car accident will depend on the insurance policy stipulations. Accident victims are entitled to file a claim with the driver of the vehicle primarily.
If negligence is assigned to the passenger after the formal investigation has concluded, a personal injury claim may be filed by both drivers against the disruptive passenger. It is important to note that there may be a restriction that allows only one insurance policy to award damages to those experiencing losses.
An attorney can help review your insurance policy and protect your rights throughout the proceedings. Seek representation from a local lawyer for optimal results. For example, a Tucson car accident attorney will be familiar with the local insurance companies (which will help during negotiations).
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Are Drivers Protected or at Risk for Liability if a Passenger Caused a Car Accident?
Drivers may be protected in certain cases of passenger-caused crashes, depending on the jurisdiction where the accident occurred and the particular details of the accident. For example, if the passenger grabbed the steering wheel and sent the vehicle into a spiral, the driver could evade liability because the situation was completely out of their control.
In general, it is the driver’s job to keep the car under control and ensure the safety of all passengers and surrounding parties. But if a passenger was at fault for the collision, the driver might not be held accountable unless it can be established that the driver was careless in some way.
It’s crucial to remember that state laws governing passenger responsibility might differ, and Arizona’s particular regulations may differ from those in other states. As a result, if you are in a passenger-caused collision and have concerns about your legal rights and obligations, it is strongly recommended that you connect with a knowledgeable auto accident lawyer.
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