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Determining Liability After a Car Accident

Sep 14, 2019 | Car Accidents, Legal Articles

Christina Trotta

Personal Injury Lawyer

When an accident occurs, a common misconception is that the passengers cannot be held liable for causing the wreck. Occupants of a vehicle can also be held negligent for a crash that occurred due to their actions.

Common Injuries in a Pedestrian AccidentAlthough most of the times the driver is the one at fault, there are cases where the passenger distracts the driver which contributes to the crash. An occupant of a car can be held liable if it is found that he/she interfered with the driver’s ability to operate on the car safely. Any action undertaken that would keep the driver’s eyes off the road can be considered as negligence on the passenger’s side. Different aspects of the case will be reviewed in court or by the insurance company to determine if the driver and passenger are both responsible for the injuries.

Is talking to the driver considered a distraction?

Yes. Sometimes when the driver talks with passengers it can turn his/her attention away from driving. This is especially the case if it’s a heated argument or a conversation that’s emotionally charged. Such conversations can lead to an accident.

According to reports shared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 56% of distracted drivers were talking to passengers when a crash occurred.

What passenger activities are said to cause distracted driving?

Any activity that draws the driver’s attention away from the road is said to be distracting and can contribute to an accident. Examples of activities that are said to distract the driver include:

  • When a passenger takes a photo or video of the driver
  • Blocking the driver’s line of sight
  • Showing the driver something on phone such as a text, email, video or post
  • Striking the driver
  • Passengers who play with electronic devices such as the stereo or navigation

Will the passenger be liable for distracting the driver and contributing to the accident?

If the activity of the passenger is said to have caused the accident then he/she will be held liable. This is meant to discourage passengers from taking part in activities that obstruct the driver’s view or interfere with the safe operation of the car such as grabbing the wheel.

When is the driver held liable?

Sometimes when a passenger causes an accident or damage, the driver can still be held liable. It is the driver’s responsibility to maintain focus when operating the vehicle and to ensure optimal safety. The driver is required to ignore any distractions that could interfere with their focus on the road. For instance, if a passenger grabs the wheel, the driver should try to pull over and get out of the car in a safe manner to prevent a crash or damage. To prove who is at fault, evidence will be evaluated to determine if the driver tried to avoid the wreck. If the driver did not do anything to disregard or avoid the distractions of the passenger, they may both be held liable for the accident.

It is a fact that in some situations, it’s impossible to ignore the passenger’s actions in order to avoid a crash. Every liability case is unique and complex. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced lawyer by your side.

What if both driver and passenger are at fault?

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident where you suspect that both the driver and passenger were at fault, you may pursue legal action against both. An injured passenger or driver may also file a claim for their damages.

The amount of compensation that each at-fault party receives will depend on their level of negligence. For instance, if the party were found to be negligent, the claim would be worth 20% less than if he/she wasn’t at fault.

Will your insurance provider pay for the wreck if caused by a passenger?

If one is involved in an accident that occurred due to an unruly driver he/she may pursue a claim and receive compensation from the insurance company of the driver of the car involved in the accident. The driver of the car in which there was an unruly passenger who contributed to the accident can file a lawsuit against the passenger.

If you have concerns regarding who will be held liable for an accident you or a loved one was involved in or need guidance to file a lawsuit,
we can help
. We’re happy to evaluate your case and advice on whether you need to file a claim for any injuries sustained.