Can Passengers Be at Fault for a Car Crash?
Posted by PKSD Law Firm on May 28, 2021 in Car Accidents
The responsibility for maintaining the safety of a vehicle primarily rests with drivers. However, there are a surprising number of reckless passenger behaviors that may distract a driver, potentially causing him or her to lose control of the vehicle.
Most of the time, passengers are not responsible for a crash and will not be liable for any resulting damages. However, if a passenger’s willful misconduct distracts your ability to drive safely and causes you to have a collision, could you hold that person liable for the damages?
PKSD Law discusses more about dangerous passenger behavior that may at least be considered a contributing factor if it leads to a collision.
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Reckless Passenger Behavior
For reckless passenger behavior to be considered willful misconduct, it would likely have to be extreme. Passengers may be considered liable for willfully dangerous actions, such as:
- Using their hands or another object to cover the driver’s eyes
- Shoving maps or other items on the dashboard that blocks the driver’s ability to see the road
- Grabbing the steering wheel, forcing the driver to turn and/or lose control of the car
- Engaging in reckless distractions, such as shouting, trying to open a car door, or throwing things out of a car window
- Purposely scaring the driver with loud noises and startling actions
- Deliberately spilling hot liquid on the driver
- Assaulting another passenger riding in the vehicle
- Encouraging a driver to get behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or alcohol
- Pushing his or her foot on top of the driver’s foot to cause the car to accelerate
This type of passenger negligence could lead to a serious or fatal car crash, especially if the driver completely loses control of his or her vehicle and veers into oncoming traffic or another object, such as a streetlight or wall. The best way to prevent this type of passenger behavior, especially with less experienced teen drivers, is to be selective about who you let into your car.
Duty of Care to Others
Drivers are not the only ones who owe others a duty of care. We are all responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent harm to others or to ourselves.
Drivers' Duty of Care
For drivers, this is more obvious, as they should take care to drive safely, such as following traffic laws, properly servicing and maintaining their vehicle, and using headlights and turn signals appropriately.
Drivers also have a duty of care to be discerning about the passengers they allow into their vehicle. If an individual is known for engaging in reckless behavior, for example, then a driver should not allow that individual into his or her car. If a driver does let a high-risk passenger into his or her car, the insurance company could argue that the driver knew – or should have known – that passenger might cause trouble.
What Is a Passenger’s Duty of Care?
A passenger riding in another individual’s car is required to use good judgment and take reasonable measures to avoid doing anything that could put someone else in harm's way. This includes distracting the driver, engaging in reckless behavior or physically assaulting others in the vehicle.
Passengers who physically overtake a driver and cause the car to crash may be found fully liable for the damages.
How Can You Prove a Passenger’s Negligence?
Even when there is evidence that a passenger caused – or at least contributed to – a car crash, proving his or her liability may be challenging.
The attorney will need to establish how the passenger’s negligence contributed to the accident by proving that he or she:
- Owed you, others in the vehicle – and others involved in the crash – a duty of care
- Breached that duty by purposely and recklessly distracting your ability to drive safely
- Directly, as the result of his or her actions, caused you to suffer an accident and sustain injuries and other damages
An experienced attorney will know how best to gather evidence - such as investigating what happened, gathering witness statements and analyzing electronic tracking data - to help build a strong claim on your behalf.
Call PKSD Law for Experienced Legal Help You Can Trust
After any car crash caused by another driver’s willfully reckless behavior, it is a good idea to contact an attorney. At PKSD Law, our Milwaukee car crash attorneys have extensive experience advocating for injured victims, including those injured in car crashes.
Our firm is dedicated to holding at-fault parties accountable for their reckless actions that cause harm to others. We are prepared to help you seek the maximum amount of compensation possible for your injuries and other losses.
Call our law offices anytime, night or day, to arrange for a free, no-obligation case review with one of our qualified attorneys. If we take your case, there are no costs to pay us up front. We also do not collect attorney fees until the end of the legal process – and only if you get paid.
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