Passengers in a car trust the driver to keep them safe. They also rely on motorists in surrounding vehicles to drive safely and follow traffic laws. Unfortunately, as a car accident lawyer I have seen passengers severely injured or killed when drivers fail to exercise reasonable care, or violate the rules of the road.
Passengers aren’t in control of the car they are riding in and cannot do anything to avoid accidents. As a result, when there is a crash, someone else is always at fault. Passengers, or their surviving family members, need to determine who was to blame for the car accident in order to file a claim and be compensated for personal injury or wrongful death losses.
Passenger Lawsuits Following a Motor Vehicle Accident
California Civil Jury Instruction Section 711 acknowledges that passengers are not responsible for driving safety when riding in someone else’s vehicle, but it does expect them to use good judgement before getting into a car. According to the relevant instruction: “A passenger is not required to be aware of the conditions on the highway and is entitled to expect that a driver will use reasonable care. However, if a passenger becomes aware of [a danger on the highway] [the driver’s impairment or failure to use reasonable care], then the passenger must take reasonable steps to protect his or her safety.”
Passengers can not control the way a motorist drives his vehicle. If the driver has an accident and his passenger gets hurt, the passenger can file a car accident claim case against the driver. Before the passenger can do that, however, he needs to prove the driver’s actions were negligent. One way to do that is by showing the driver violated a safety rule. If the driver broke a traffic law, there is a presumption that he failed to exercise reasonable care. The passenger can also prove negligence by demonstrating the driver was driving more recklessly than an average reasonable driver.
Injured passengers are entitled to full and fair compensation of their damages. The at-fault driver’s insurer will cover the cost of an injured passenger’s damages, up to the driver’s policy limits. Passengers are often hesitant to pursue a claim when the driver is a friend. Since it is the insurer who pays – and paying for losses is the very purpose of insurance – victims of accidents should feel comfortable making a claim. It is the driver’s insurance company, not the driver, who will pay for the victim’s losses. An injured passenger should not be left with unreimbursed out-of-pocket or other damages.
Although passengers are not held accountable for a car crash, California law does make clear that passengers need to take reasonable precautions to ensure their own safety. For example, a passenger is expected to wear a seatbelt and not to get into a car with a driver the passenger knows is drunk. If a passenger violates his own duty of care, California’s comparative fault laws may find he was partially responsible for his own injuries. When that happens, the passenger’s recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to him.
In some cases the driver of the car the passenger is in is to blame for a crash. In other cases, it is the driver of another car who was to blame. An injured passenger can sue whoever was at-fault for the car accident. If the at-fault driver was working at the time of the crash, the passenger could also potentially sue the negligent driver’s employer for losses.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, a passenger could sue the road designers or those in charge of road maintenance if road conditions caused the collision. Vehicle manufacturers can also be sued if car defects lead to a crash.
Getting Help from a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer
Your Injuries are Personal to Me
A Long Beach car accident lawyer will help passengers determine who should be sued when the passenger gets hurt in a crash.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 or use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation to speak with a Long Beach car accident lawyer to learn how I can help you if you’ve suffered a car accident injury. You will be under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
You can also download my convenient glove box checklist to keep in your car so you will know what to do if a crash occurs.
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