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Can Passengers be Found Liable for Damages from a Car Accident?

enter key with liability written on itThere are many reasons why car accidents happen, but most of these reasons can be filed under driver negligence. Drivers often operate their vehicles recklessly and cause collisions with other vehicles. For example, drivers routinely speed, make turns when oncoming traffic is too close, text while driving and engage in other dangerous behavior that causes a crash.

At-fault drivers often try to blame crashes on other factors or people besides themselves. For example, they may say they were distracted by a passenger in their vehicle and this person is to blame. While blaming a passenger may sound ridiculous, there are times when a passenger could be found at fault for a crash.

Below, we discuss rare occasions when a passenger might be liable for a crash. It is important to note it would be difficult to prove a passenger is liable, whether you are the victim or the at-fault driver.

Have questions after a crash? Call Schmidt Kramer today: (717) 510-1770.

When Passengers Might be Held Liable for a Crash

It is rare for a passenger to bear any liability for a car crash because he or she was not in control of the car. However, there are times when the passenger may be in control of the car or times when the passenger’s behavior directly causes the driver to lose control of the car.

These are some examples of times when a passenger might be held liable for a car crash:

  • The passenger was operating the vehicle – If the driver allowed the passenger to take control of the steering wheel, accelerator, brake, gearshift or any other mechanical part that affects the maneuverability of the vehicle, the passenger could be considered to be the driver.
  • The passenger caused the driver to be incapacitated – If a passenger interferes with the driver’s ability to control the vehicle, he or she could be found at fault if a crash happens. For example, a passenger could put his or her hands over the driver’s eyes, tug at the driver’s arm, or cause them to be distracted by talking to them.
  • The passenger encouraged or enabled the driver to operate the vehicle – If a passenger encourages or enables a driver to operate a vehicle while he or she is unfit to do so, the passenger could bear liability for damages that occur in a crash. This might happen if a passenger begged the driver to get in the car even though the driver was drunk. If the passenger agreed to let the driver drive him or her home even though the passenger knew the driver was drunk, the passenger may bear liability if a crash occurs. The passenger may also be liable if they encouraged someone with a physical condition or mental impairment to drive (seizures, vision issues, muscle weakness, drowsiness, etc.).

Why Passengers are Rarely Held Liable for Car Crashes

If a driver feels he or she is at risk of losing control of the vehicle because of an unruly passenger, the driver should pull over to prevent a potential crash. For example, a driver could be distracted by a passenger because the passenger is talking to them, or the driver is passing food to the passenger.

This is one of the main reasons why passengers are rarely held liable for a crash. A passenger could rarely be so unruly that he or she would be found liable for damages from a crash. The driver is still expected to maintain control of the vehicle or take the vehicle off the road. Drivers must account for road conditions, unruly passengers, weather and other factors to safely operate their vehicles.

Seeking Compensation from a Passenger

If a passenger bears liability, he or she likely only bears partial liability. That means you would seek most of your compensation from the driver of the vehicle. The driver is typically the one who has insurance on the car, as liability insurance typically follows the car.

It may be possible to seek compensation from the passenger’s liability insurance. However, this is a complex situation that should be discussed with a licensed Harrisburg-based vehicle accident attorney who can determine how to pursue full compensation.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania is a no-fault state so you can seek compensation from your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance for your medical expenses and some other damages. Your lawyer may need to file a separate liability insurance claim to cover other damages you suffer that are not covered by PIP insurance.

Contact Schmidt Kramer to Discuss Legal Options

Your choice of an attorney to represent you after a crash is an important decision. You need an experienced lawyer who is prepared to manage every aspect of your case because he or she has done it before. You need an attorney with a proven track record of success with car crash claims.

Schmidt Kramer has obtained millions on behalf of Pennsylvania car crash victims. We know how to aggressively pursue full compensation and there are no upfront fees with our services.

Contact us today to learn more: (717) 510-1770.