We are oftentimes contacted by persons who were passengers involved in automobile accidents. Obviously, the passengers could not have done anything wrong but merely were in a vehicle that was involved in a collision. Sometimes the collision is caused by the host driver, who might even be a family member, and sometimes the collision is caused by the negligence of a third party. While all cases are factually specific, the innocent passenger may have a claim against either the driver of the vehicle they were in, the driver of the other vehicle, either or both.
The difficulty in representing passengers sometimes arises when the passenger is with a friend and does not want to file a claim against the friend or relative or other person they know well. And yet, if the damages sustained are significant, they may not have any choice because they need access to their insurance coverage to help with medical bills, lost wages, etc. As we have written before, passengers should have uninsured motorist coverage to protect themselves in any event but if no such coverage is available, the only recourse will be to consider claims against the host driver and/or any other third party that contributed to the cause of the collision.
Car accident cases are always factually unique and depending upon the facts of the case, there may or may not be liability against either or both drivers as stated. In some rare incidences, the passenger may not be able to recover, such as when they enter a vehicle after drinking themselves, knowing that their host driver was drinking too or in cases of intra-family immunity.
Any passenger in a car accident should confer with counsel if faced with the dilemma of potentially filing a claim against a host driver. Such claims sometimes are unavoidable for the reasons stated, but an early investigation is the best way to determine liability and responsibility for such damage claims.