Can a Passenger be Liable for a Car Accident?

Car Accident

A variety of factors can cause a car accident. They range from weather conditions and traffic to tire blowouts and confusing GPS directions. However, usually the vehicle occupants play a major role in the actions that lead to an accident and its severity. This includes passengers in the vehicle.

Depending on the circumstances and the actions, a passenger can be liable for car accidents and any personal liability that results. Although there is no direct passenger negligence claim established in insurance law, there are ways to assign some blame to that person or persons. That can mean a variety of things, from limiting or preventing any attempt to collect damages from the accident, to being held liable by other parties, such as anyone injured outside the car or the driver.

What Actions can Lead to Passenger Liability?

To avoid passenger liability, the best advice is probably to use common sense. Most of the causal actions can be prevented if practicing safe, normal behavior. Here are some of the most common behaviors that lead to passenger liability:

  • Assaulting the driver or another passenger in the vehicle
  • Blocking the driver’s view of the road by shoving a large map or other object into their line of sight
  • Distracting the driver, including using a cell phone, shouting out the window, or throwing items out of the car
  • Encouraging a driver to get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
  • Grabbing the steering wheel or otherwise physically attempting to cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle
  • Intentionally distracting or startling the driver with loud noises or other intrusive actions
  • Placing hands over the driver’s eyes
  • Spilling hot or cold liquid on the driver’s lap

Despite how safe today’s cars are, they rely mostly on effective operation by the driver. Passengers need to let drivers focus on the road and avoid distractions. Increasingly, that means watching cell phone usage. Lawyers have seen app activity causing accidents, even fatal ones. To mitigate these, passengers should not distract drivers with social media or other cell phone activity. If distracting actions continue, drivers should pull over, wait for passengers to settle down, and if necessary, tell them to leave the vehicle.

What Duty of Care do Passengers Carry?

Although not as comprehensive as drivers, passengers carry a duty of care while in a car. Duty of care covers the reasonable measures expected of all stakeholders to prevent accidents and keep everyone safe. Drivers obviously have more to do on their end. However, passengers are expected to avoid engaging in activity that will distract drivers and possibly lose control of the vehicle. Any actions that would attempt to affect the driver’s control, such as trying to hit the brakes or grab the steering wheel, would violate that duty of care.

That duty of care comes into play when determining negligence for an accident. A passenger can be assigned negligence if:

  • The duty of care was owed, knowingly.
  • That duty was willingly violated or breached.
  • The actions violating the duty of care directly caused someone to be involved and injured in an accident.
  • The actions caused someone to suffer identifiable damages, such as costs to treat injuries.

When that negligence is assigned, it can affect the passenger’s attempt to claim damages for the accident.

Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Fight to Get the Results Victims Deserve

A variety of factors can cause car accidents. If there is passenger negligence involved, an experienced law firm can make the difference in resolving things effectively. The Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King bring the legal knowledge to navigate a claim and produce the best possible results. Call us at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington, DC, we work with car accident victims in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, and Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.