Car Accidents and Passenger Negligence

Drivers are the only ones who can cause a car accident, right? Not so fast. A passenger’s behavior can also create a hazardous situation and potentially cause a crash. If you’ve been injured in an accident and believe that a passenger is to blame, the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC can help you demand compensation from them.

Give our Philadelphia law firm a call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case assessment. Our team will happily review the details of your case, provide a brief overview of your legal rights, and answer any questions that you might have.

What Does It Mean to Be Negligent?

passenger negligence

Negligence is the basis for most car accident claims and lawsuits in Philadelphia.

In very basic terms, negligence involves failing to use proper care when doing something, which ultimately causes someone else to get hurt.

There are four things – or elements – that must be established when you file a lawsuit based on negligence.

  • Duty: The defendant (the person you’re suing) owed you a duty of care.
  • Breach: The defendant failed to uphold or satisfy this duty of care. A breach can involve actions or a failure to act.
  • Causation: The defendant’s actions caused you to get hurt.
  • Injury: You sustained some type of injury or harm as a result of the defendant’s actions. Harm can be physical, emotional, or even just financial.

It’s not just drivers who owe their passengers a duty of care. Passengers also assume a responsibility to act in a manner that doesn’t put others – including their driver – in harm’s way. So, it is possible to hold a passenger accountable for the harm that’s caused by their negligent actions or misconduct.

Examples of Passenger Negligence

How do you know if a passenger is negligent? What does passenger negligence look like? Here are a few examples:

  • Pushing a cell phone in front of the driver while they’re operating the car
  • Grabbing the steering wheel and attempting to navigate the vehicle
  • Yelling or screaming while the driver is operating the vehicle
  • Doing things to intentionally distract or annoy a driver
  • Putting their hands over the driver’s eyes or making it difficult for the driver to see
  • Encouraging or facilitating a drunk driver, and
  • Engaging in conversation with a driver while a car is in motion.

Really? Just having a conversation can be considered negligence? Quite possibly. If a passenger is distracting a driver and preventing them from paying attention to the road, that conduct might be considered negligent if it contributes to a crash.

Can an Injured Passenger Recover Compensation If They Were Negligent?

It’s very possible. Just because a passenger’s negligence contributed to an accident doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re entirely at fault. They may only be responsible for a small percentage of the accident. Under Pennsylvania state law, this means that they can potentially still recover compensation for any injuries they sustain in a crash.

That’s because Pennsylvania has modified comparative negligence rules. After an accident, fault is divided and allocated to all negligent parties. In other words, anyone who contributes to an accident assumes some responsibility. The larger your role in causing an accident, the more responsibility you assume.

As long as you’re allocated less than 51 percent of the blame for an accident, you can still recover some monetary damages. So, if a passenger just plays a small role, they can still secure a financial award. It will simply be reduced to reflect their contribution to the crash.

Here’s an example. Let’s say Tom is driving down Broad Street in Philadelphia. Steve is in the front passenger seat and begins to joke around. He grabs the steering wheel, pushing it in different directions, making it difficult for Tom to stay on the road. Tom plays along for a while, not attempting to get Steve to let go of the wheel. Then, all of a sudden, Tom sees a pedestrian who’s jaywalking right in front of them. He swerves hard to the right and ultimately ends up crashing into a utility pole.

After the accident, Steve decides that he wants to pursue compensation for his injuries. Tom’s insurance company refuses to pay his claim in full, pointing out that his negligence contributed to the accident. They claim that he is 50 percent responsible for the crash, so they’re only willing to pay 50 percent of his damages.

At the same time, passengers who are allocated any degree of responsibility for an accident can be liable for damages sustained by others in an accident. So, in the example above, Steve could potentially be responsible for 50 percent of Tom’s damages after that accident.

What Damages Can I Get From a Negligent Passenger?

Don’t shrug off your injuries after an accident. If you were involved in an accident because of something your passenger did, you need to hold them accountable. This might be easy for you to decide to do if you’re an Uber or Lyft driver and don’t have a personal relationship with your passenger. It could be more challenging if you know your passenger well.

In either case, you can benefit from the help of an experienced Philadelphia car accident attorney. At Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, our team will carefully investigate your case and identify all of your damages. Then we’ll seek maximum compensation for each and every one. This could include money for:

  • Hospitalization, surgery, and other medical bills
  • Rehabilitation
  • Nursing care
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages and income
  • Disability
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement, and more.

We know that your passenger and any insurance companies that are involved will attempt to devalue your claim. They’ll want to limit the amount of money that’s paid out to you. Our team will work diligently to stop that from happening. We’ll work night and day to make sure that we build the strongest possible claim on your behalf. How? We’ll bring in experts – including medical doctors, mental health practitioners, and vocational professionals – to bolster our demands for compensation.

When Do I Have to File a Lawsuit or Injury Claim Against a Passenger?

After an accident, you might have a legitimate claim for damages against a negligent passenger. However, in Pennsylvania, you’ll have a limited window of time to make your demands. The state imposes a statute of limitations on all personal injury lawsuits. For cases based on negligence, you’ll traditionally have up to two years from the date of your accident to file a claim.

What happens if you miss the deadline? You’ll have essentially waived your right to recover compensation. In other words, your claim will be barred and you’ll get nothing, at all.

Keep in mind there are some exceptions to the rule. However, it’s risky to wait to file a lawsuit or injury claim after an accident. The best thing you can do is consult an attorney who has experience handling cases like yours as soon as you can after your accident. Your lawyer can help to ensure that your claims are filed in a timely manner.

Injured Because of Passenger Negligence? Call Our Philadelphia Passenger Negligence Lawyers For Help

Just because someone isn’t behind the wheel doesn’t mean that they can’t contribute to or cause an accident. Passengers have a responsibility to act in a way that doesn’t create a dangerous or hazardous situation. If a passenger’s behavior ultimately causes someone else to get hurt, they can be on the hook for the costs.

It might be difficult to think about pursuing compensation from a passenger. Let our accomplished Philadelphia car accident attorneys worry about that. Give our law office a call today to schedule a time to discuss your legal rights and options in detail. We’re available to chat whenever and wherever it’s convenient for you. Your initial consultation is free, so call now.