Posted on behalf of Anderson Cummings on Feb 27, 2023 in Auto Accidents
Traffic accidents are typically the result of driver error or someone’s reckless behavior. Are there times, however, when a passenger could be liable for causing a car crash?
Anderson Cummings explores this possibility, including situations where a passenger could share some responsibility for a collision.
Injured in a crash where someone else was negligent or in an incident where liability is unclear? If so, we recommend that you speak with a licensed attorney as soon as possible.
Our firm offers free case reviews with an experienced Fort Worth auto accident lawyer. This meeting provides a zero-risk opportunity to learn about your potential legal options.
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Do Passengers Have a Legal Responsibility?
Everyone owes some level of legal duty when sharing the road, including drivers, vulnerable road users such as pedestrians or cyclists, and yes, passengers too.
It is true that drivers have the primary duty of care, which includes following all traffic laws. Their legal duty includes making every reasonable effort to avoid causing harm to themselves or to others.
However, passengers also have a legal duty, which includes not creating dangerous distractions. Passengers should not engage in any type of behavior that may make operating a vehicle unsafe. This duty applies whether traveling in someone else’s vehicle or even in their own car when someone else is operating it.
What Kind of Behavior Could Result in a Passenger Being Liable for a Crash?
It is not hard to imagine things passengers could do that would distract a driver or make operating a vehicle unsafe. Some of the most common risky passenger behaviors might include:
- Shouting or other behavior to purposely startle the driver
- Grabbing the steering wheel and jerking or turning it
- Covering a driver’s eyes for seconds at a time
- Reaching over with a foot or hand and pressing down on the driver’s foot to accelerate
- Shouting out the window and trying to stir up trouble with a driver
- Engaging with another driver who is already exhibiting aggressive behavior
- Trying to open the door of the vehicle while it is still moving
- Assaulting the driver or another passenger while the vehicle is in traffic
- Getting out of the car to run around the vehicle at a traffic light or in an intersection
- Deliberately spilling hot food or liquids on the driver
- Inciting a driver to go faster or engage in some type of race or a high-speed chase
The list goes on, but the behaviors listed here are all extremely dangerous. Some drivers may react to an extent that they lose control of the vehicle. Depending on the situation, time of day, weather and other conditions, the result could easily be a severe crash.
Can a Passenger Cause a Driver to Crash?
There is no doubt that a passenger’s behavior could cause a driver to crash. Here are a few realistic scenarios:
- Passenger grabs the wheel on a highway – The passenger in this situation may only intend to have some “harmless” fun by startling the driver. The road is wet, however, and this action causes the driver to lose control. The vehicle ends up in wrong-way traffic, causing a head-on collision.
- Passenger punches the driver - The wrong conversation could cause the driver, the passenger or both to lose their temper. If the result is a fight while the driver is operating the vehicle, it could easily cause a rear-end, sideswipe or other serious collision.
- Passenger incites a driver to speed – This type of scenario is especially common with younger, less experienced drivers. However, if a passenger engages in this behavior and someone is injured or killed as a result, he or she could be at least partially liable. In some situations, it could also result in a criminal charge.
How Could a Driver Prove a Passenger Caused a Crash?
This is where a legal case involving a passenger could be especially challenging. In Texas, there is no specific law that makes a passenger liable for a crash. One or more drivers are typically the ones held legally responsible when a traffic accident occurs. As such, any claim to recover damages would go against the auto insurance policy of an at-fault driver.
There are rare exceptions, however, when it may be possible to hold a passenger partially liable for a crash. Proving a passenger's liability could be far more challenging, however, than seeking liability against a driver.
If you were injured in a crash caused by a passenger, you should definitely consider seeking legal help.
The injured victim, or his or her attorney, has the burden of proving negligence in a car crash claim, which requires proving that:
- The at-fault individual, such as the passenger, owed you a legal duty of care
- That passenger or other responsible party violated that legal duty
- The legal violation resulted in the crash that caused your injuries
- You suffered damages, such as medical costs, lost wages, and more
Will Insurance Cover a Crash Caused By a Passenger?
Most of the time, the liability insurance of the driver in the vehicle that caused the crash will cover the victims’ damages. This is typically the case, regardless of whether a passenger had any involvement in causing the crash or not.
As part of their legal duty, drivers are responsible for not carrying passengers who are known to engage in reckless behaviors. That said, there are times when a passenger may be held at least partially liable. However, since every traffic accident is unique, this is something best discussed with an attorney on a case-by-case basis.
If a passenger can be held partially liable, it is possible that he or she could be personally sued for some of the damages. If that liable passenger is still a minor, victims may also have a partial claim against a parent’s auto insurance policy.
Need Legal Help After a Crash? Call to Discuss Your Situation Today
Determining and even proving liability for any crash is rarely straightforward. This is why having a knowledgeable attorney managing your case could greatly impact the amount of compensation you receive for your damages.
Our firm has a history of proven results, and we have recovered hundreds of millions for our clients.
Not sure if you have a valid case? That is why we offer a free initial consultation. This meeting carries no obligation to file a claim or hire our services. If you do choose to hire our firm, it costs you nothing up front or throughout the legal process. We only get paid our fees if we win your case.
Contact our firm anytime, night or day, to discuss your situation. (817) 920-9000