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Behind the Wheel: Can a Passenger Ever Be Held Liable for a Car Accident?

Most people assume that a vehicle’s driver is automatically responsible for an accident, and most of the time, that’s true. However, if a passenger distracts a driver or interferes with their safe operation of the vehicle, they may be held liable. Depending on a case’s facts, both parties may share responsibility. Here, you’ll learn whether passengers can be held partially or completely responsible for auto accidents.

Does Holding a Conversation Distract a Driver?

Yes, it can. Conversations, especially those that are highly emotional, may cause drivers to lose their focus on the road. An argument with a driver will divide his or her attention, which increases the chances of an accident.

Although everyone knows how risky it is to drive while using a mobile device, the NHTSA says that 11.5% of distracted drivers were dialing, texting, or talking in the time right before a crash. However, over 56% were talking to passengers.

Can a Passenger’s Other Activities Cause a Distraction?

Again, they can. Over 1000 people are injured and nine are killed in distracted driving crashes each day, according to the NHTSA. For more information on distracted driving, call the Cagle Law Firm. Some of the most common distractions include:

  • Recording video or taking photos of a driver
  • Obstructing the driver’s view
  • Hitting a driver
  • Showing a driver a text message, social media post, or email
  • Changing the settings on electronic devices

If a passenger causes an accident by blocking the driver’s line of sight or interfering with the vehicle’s safe operation, he or she may be held legally responsible for the crash and any damages. Local attorneys can provide more case-specific details.

If a Passenger Causes an Auto Accident, Is the Driver Responsible?

Drivers have a responsibility to pay attention to the road and operate their vehicles safely. They must ignore, as much as possible, anything that may interfere with those tasks. For instance, in cases where passengers grabbed the wheel, the driver could have pulled over when the passenger lost control of his or her emotions. If the vehicle’s driver could have ignored the passenger’s actions or otherwise prevented the accident, both parties could be held liable. These cases are complex enough that most should be reviewed by attorneys.

What Happens If Parties Share Responsibility?

In cases of shared responsibility, third parties are allowed to file claims against passengers and drivers. As for the at-fault parties, each may file claims under the state’s comparative negligence law. Under such rules, the law reduces compensation according to each person’s degree of negligence. For example, if a passenger is 20% responsible for a collision, his or her claim is reduced by that amount.

Does the Driver’s Insurance Cover Accidents Cause by Passengers?

Unrelated victims of accidents caused by unruly or negligent passengers may pursue claims with the driver’s insurance company. The driver of that vehicle may be able to use their own first-party insurance coverage or file a claim against the passenger.

Closing Thoughts

Though it’s nice to have passengers along for the ride, they sometimes cause distractions and create other issues. Sometimes, their fault is clear-cut, but in other cases, drivers and passengers are equally liable. If you’ve been in an accident because of a passenger’s negligent actions, or if you’re the driver who shares responsibility, it’s best to hire an injury attorney who has handled similar cases in the past.



Welcome to the Night Helper Blog. The Night Helper Blog was created in 2008. Since then we have been blessed to partner with many well-known Brands like Best Buy, Fisher Price, Toys "R" US., Hasbro, Disney, Teleflora, ClearCorrect, Radio Shack, VTech, KIA Motor, MAZDA and many other great brands. We have three awesome children, plus four adorable very active grandkids. From time to time they too are contributors to the Night Helper Blog. We enjoy reading, listening to music, entertaining, travel, movies, and of course blogging.

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