Can a Passenger be Liable for a Car Accident?

Passenger liable car accident

Driving a car is a major responsibility and should never be taken lightly.  If you get behind the wheel, you are legally required to always operate the vehicle safely.  Therefore, it is immediately assumed that one or more drivers involved in a car accident are liable for the damages. However, there are some situations in which a passenger may be held liable, or at least share some responsibility for the accident.

All drivers have a duty to keep each other safe on the roads, obey all traffic laws, and to not drive recklessly.  With the United States averaging about six million car accidents a year, it is safe to assume that most of those accidents are caused by the driver.

But passengers have a duty as well: to not distract the driver to the point at which an accident occurs.  Even if that does occur, ultimately it is the driver who must be always in control.  There are only a few circumstances in which a passenger would hold some responsibility for a car accident:

  • A passenger can be found liable for an accident should they grab the steering wheel, pull the gear shifter or emergency brake, or perform a similar action. Essentially, this includes any dangerous action that takes control of the vehicle.
  • Should the passenger encourage the driver to break any traffic laws or perform any negligent actions, such as participating in a street race or running a traffic light.
  • If the passenger knowingly gave the driver drugs or alcohol, or any substance that purposefully will impair the driver, prior to getting into the car.
  • Recklessly causing any distraction that would otherwise cause the driver to lose focus from the task of driving, such as placing their hands over the driver’s eyes.
  • Fighting with the driver or any other violent interaction that can cause the driver to lose control of the car.

Whenever a passenger is involved in a car accident, they can recover damages from the driver’s car insurance, particularly in a no-fault insurance state such as Pennsylvania.  However, if it is proved that the passenger should share some responsibility for the accident, that most likely will jeopardize any compensation afforded to them.  In some scenarios with overly aggressive actions, such as grabbing the steering wheel, the passenger assumes control of the vehicle and can be fully liable for any injuries or damages.

If a passenger enters a vehicle and they know the driver is not capable of driving safely, such as they are drunk or impaired, legally they consent to be a passenger.  In this scenario, the passenger cannot be compensated should the driver cause an accident.  Furthermore, any negligence that causes an accident will only find the driver liable, never the passenger.

What can a Driver Do if a Passenger Causes an Accident?

Even with these rare scenarios, it can still be quite difficult to prove that a passenger is fully liable for causing a car accident.  A driver must do everything they possibly can to prevent any distraction and focus on driving, no matter how distracting the passenger may be.  Only a knowledgeable car accident lawyer can help determine who is truly liable for an accident.

If you are driving with an unruly passenger, the best course of action is to pull over in a safe spot and limit the distraction.  Here, the driver can regain focus and explain to the passenger the dangerous situation they are in and the consequences of their actions.  If necessary, the driver should ask the passenger to exit the vehicle.

Delaware County Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello Help Those Injured by Reckless Passengers

Dealing with a car accident can be extremely stressful for all parties involved, including the passengers.  With insurance companies and medical bills, it can be difficult to determine who should be liable for the damages.  That is where the Delaware County car accident lawyers at the Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello can help.  Our experienced team can help build your case and get the compensation you rightfully deserve. Learn more at a free consultation by filling out an online registration form or calling 610-892-4940. Our office is in Media, Pennsylvania. We represent clients in Media, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lancaster, Montgomery County, Norristown, Philadelphia, Reading, West Chester, and throughout Pennsylvania.