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Can Passengers Be Liable for Car Accidents?

Posted in Car Accidents on September 7, 2021

When you picture a car accident insurance claim or lawsuit, you most likely imagine the driver of the other vehicle taking legal responsibility for carelessly or recklessly causing the crash. You may not consider the potential fault of a passenger within the vehicle. However, there are unique situations where a passenger could be held liable (financially responsible) for a car accident in Texas.

Do Passengers Have a Duty of Care?

Yes, vehicle passengers have certain duties of care. A duty of care is a legal or ethical requirement to act with reasonable prudence and safety. If a vehicle passenger does something that falls outside of the duty of care, he or she has been negligent. Technically, passenger negligence does not exist in a car accident case in Texas. Only a motor vehicle driver can be held liable for a collision. However, there are cases where a passenger could share fault for the accident with the driver.
A portion of fault for a car accident could fall on a passenger if the passenger breaches any of his or her duties of care, which include:

  • Not to encourage reckless driving, such as speeding or drag racing. This is an especially common problem among teenage drivers and their friends.
  • Not to distract the driver. Not to talk to, argue with, touch, hit or otherwise distract the driver from the driving task.
  • Not to do anything that could interfere with the driver’s ability to operate the motor vehicle, such as yank the steering wheel out of the driver’s hand.

If a passenger carelessly or intentionally acts outside of these duties of care, the passenger could be held at least partially liable for a resultant car accident. This means the passenger could be personally sued for the car wreck by any injured victims in the other car. The passenger would most likely share liability with the driver of the vehicle. In this scenario, the passenger’s auto insurance (or a parent’s insurance, in the case of a minor passenger) may step in to cover a portion of crash victims’ financial damages.

Are Passengers Covered by Car Insurance?

For the most part, a vehicle passenger who is injured in an auto accident in Texas is covered by the automobile insurance of the driver of the car. Passenger liability typically is not considered in a car accident case unless there is reason to suspect passenger negligence. In most car accident cases, the driver of the car (or his/her insurance company) will pay for the passenger’s injuries, medical bills and other losses – whether or not the driver was at fault for the accident. There are exceptions, however, in special circumstances.
If a passenger gives his or her consent (verbal or nonverbal) to ride in a car with a known dangerous driver, such as a driver who is known to be intoxicated or drowsy, the passenger may give up his or her right to obtain financial compensation from the driver’s insurance company after a related car accident. If an investigation finds proof that the passenger knew or reasonably should have known of the driver’s impaired state or reckless driving behaviors, this may undermine the passenger’s injury claim and exclude him or her from insurance coverage.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney in Dallas

Every car accident case is unique. If your car accident claim involves the potential liability of a vehicle passenger or an injured passenger who is seeking financial benefits, contact a car accident attorney in Dallas right away. An attorney can thoroughly investigate your car accident, look for signs of fault or causation, and collect evidence of passenger liability (if applicable). Your attorney will protect your rights and best interests throughout the legal process, taking the steps that are necessary to fight for the best possible case outcome on your behalf. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you every step of the way.