Can Passengers Be Liable for Car Accidents?
Liability, or financial responsibility, for a car accident generally goes to one of the two drivers involved. It is a driver’s duty to safely and properly control a motor vehicle. In rare circumstances, however, fault and liability can go to a passenger. In this scenario, the passenger’s insurance company may have to pay for damages.
What Are a Passenger’s Duties?
Someone who rides as a passenger in a motor vehicle has a duty, or legal obligation, to avoid actions and behaviors that could distract the driver from the driving task or cause an accident. Although it is the driver’s responsibility to make smart choices and operate the vehicle in a reasonably safe manner, a passenger also has a duty not to cause or contribute to a car accident.
A passenger has the power to negatively impact a driver’s ability to safely control a vehicle – especially a young and inexperienced driver. A passenger could breach his or her duties of care with many dangerous acts, such as:
- Taking control of the wheel
- Pushing the driver’s foot down on the gas pedal
- Encouraging the driver to speed or race
- Pressuring the driver into reckless acts, such as driving drunk
- Distracting the driver from the driving task
- Taking photos or videos of the driver
- Singing or talking loudly
- Yelling at the driver
- Waving the passenger’s hands in front of the driver’s face
- Hitting or punching the driver
Any of these actions or behaviors could place liability for a car accident at least partially with the passenger. Although it is often not possible to hold a passenger 100 percent liable for a car accident, the passenger may bear a portion of fault.
What Are the Elements of Proof Necessary in a Claim Against a Passenger?
It is important to note that liability for a car accident in Kentucky will only be a question if the victim has grounds to file a lawsuit outside of the state’s no-fault insurance system. In Kentucky, the car insurance rule requires drivers to seek financial compensation from their own insurance providers, regardless of fault, unless their injuries meet Kentucky’s serious injury threshold or a driver opted out of the no-fault system.
If a driver does have the right to file a lawsuit, the driver or his or her car accident attorney will have to prove three main elements as more likely to be true than untrue to hold a passenger liable for financial damages:
- The passenger behaved in a careless or dangerous way, or provoked the driver to do so.
- The passenger’s actions caused or significantly contributed to the car accident.
- The victim suffered compensable losses as a result of the passenger’s actions.
Proving a car accident claim against a passenger in Kentucky requires a preponderance of the evidence: enough clear and convincing evidence to show that the passenger is at least 50 percent responsible for causing the collision. Hiring a car accident attorney in Louisville can make it easier for an injured victim to prove a case against a careless, reckless or dangerous passenger.
The Importance of Consulting With an Attorney
Any type of car accident case in Kentucky can be complicated and difficult to navigate. If your case involves a unique factor such as passenger negligence, however, it can be even more difficult to win your case and obtain the financial compensation you need to move forward. Contacting an experienced car accident lawyer in Louisville can help you seek relief.
An attorney can handle legal tasks that are important to your injury claim on your behalf, such as investigating the crash, looking for evidence of passenger liability, and filing a claim against the correct party or parties. Your lawyer can create a legal strategy that is tailored to your individual case and goals.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a negligent or reckless passenger or driver in Kentucky, consult with an attorney from Hendy | Johnson | Vaughn | Emery right away for help with your recovery.