A passenger in a car that has collided with another vehicle may be, in rare cases, held responsible for a car accident. Our Denton attorneys at Springer & Lyle will help you understand when a passenger may be responsible for a car accident and when you may be able to collect damages from a passenger.
Circumstances in Which a Passenger May be Responsible for a Car Accident
In general, only a driver of a vehicle can be held responsible for a car accident. Rare times when a passenger may be liable include the following circumstances.
Passenger grabs the steering wheel. In the rare instance that a passenger puts his or her hands on the steering wheel of the car while the car is moving, that passenger becomes a driver. If a crash occurs due to the passenger becoming the driver, that passenger/driver can be held liable for damages resulting from that action in the same manner as a driver.
Passenger steps on the gas pedal. Another rare instance may be if the passenger reaches his or her leg over and slams down on the gas pedal. The passenger has taken control of the vehicle, has become a driver, and may then be held liable for any damages that occur as a result.
Passenger punches driver in the face. This is quite rare. In one case in Massachusetts, a passenger punched a bus driver in the face, causing the driver to black out and hit another car. Sixteen people were injured. The passenger’s actions were captured on videocam, and he was held criminally responsible for the damages that occurred. If this happened in Texas, he could also be liable in a civil case; however, automobile insurance coverage would probably not cover the claim due to a policy exclusion regarding criminal activity.
Passenger encourages driver to speed. In California, a young woman urged her boyfriend driver to drive at an excessive speed in an area where she told him if he drove fast enough over dips in the road, the car would become airborne. The driver lost control, slammed into a parked car, and killed a father of three who was fastening his child into the car seat in the back seat of the car.
A California court of appeals ruled that the passenger was partially responsible for the accident and therefore could be sued in a civil case for damages for the wrongful death of the father since she interfered with the driver’s control of the vehicle.
If you were injured in any accident, including one where the passenger may be responsible, the personal injury attorneys at Springer & Lyle can help you obtain the reasonable compensation you are entitled for your injuries, lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other physical damage. Contact us at 940.387.0404 for a free consultation.