CAN PASSENGERS BE RESPONSIBLE FOR CAR ACCIDENTS?
Normally, passengers are not legally responsible, even partially, for car accidents. However, there are rare exceptions.
A passenger in a car must act with a reasonable amount of care for his own safety. The passenger may assume that the driver will exercise proper care and caution in driving. Until a passenger knows or should know, that the driver is operating the car improperly, the passenger needn’t supervise the driver.
Nor must a passenger keep a lookout for danger. Moreover, a passenger has no duty to warn the driver of a danger of which the passenger reasonably believes the driver is aware.
However, if it becomes apparent that the driver is driving carelessly, the passenger must protest. Alternatively, he must persuade the driver to drive carefully. Further, if the driver ignores the protest, there is a duty for the passenger to leave the car if reasonably possible.
If the passenger fails to comply with these duties, then the passenger may be held at least partly responsible for any resulting car accident.
WHAT ABOUT AN INTOXICATED DRIVER?
Suppose the passenger voluntarily rides in a car operated by an intoxicated person. An accident occurs. When the case goes to court, the jury must decide whether an ordinarily careful person, under the same circumstances, would have risked riding with the driver. Thus, the jury must consider several questions.
First, did the passenger voluntarily ride in a car that an intoxicated person drove? Second, should the passenger have known of the driver’s condition? Third, would a careful person have refused to drive with the intoxicated driver? Fourth, did the intoxication of the driver contribute to the accident occurring?
If the answers to all these questions is yes, then the passenger was at least partly responsible. If the answer to any of the questions is no, then the passenger will not bear any legal responsibility.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A PASSENGER IS PARTLY RESPONSIBLE?
What are the consequences for injured passengers partially responsible for car accidents? Judges will reduce the amounts of any jury awards to such passengers. If the jury deems any passenger to be mostly responsible for an accident, the passenger will recover nothing.