Can a Driver Sue a Passenger for a Car Accident?

Can a Driver Sue a Passenger for a Car Accident?

After a car accident, it’s natural to assume that one or both of the drivers is at fault. But what if a passenger was actually to blame? In some cases, a passenger can be held either partially or totally responsible for causing a crash.

Of course, it can be very difficult to prove exactly what happened and even more challenging to hold a passenger liable in a lawsuit. You’ll need to show that the passenger’s actions directly led to your crash.

When Passengers Cause Car Accidents

At first, it might seem silly that a passenger could be held responsible for a car accident, but consider these very serious situations:

  • In a car full of teenagers, one of them yanks the wheel to the side out of the driver’s hands, causing a crash.
  • A passenger dares the driver to race another car, then uses their own foot to press down on the accelerator, which leads to a high-speed crash.
  • An Uber driver is physically attacked by their passenger and wrecks the car while defending themselves.
  • As the sober designated driver, you take your friend home from a party. During the drive, they act so erratically they cause you to swerve off the road.

These are examples of situations where a passenger might be held partially or totally at fault for an accident. It depends on the exact circumstances and whether the driver also held some responsibility for what happened.

Will Your Passenger Own Up to the Blame?

In California, a driver can sue a passenger for damages if they caused or contributed to a road accident. In some crashes, the law takes the view that two or more people engaged in a “concert of action” that wouldn’t necessarily have occurred if they were alone. In rare cases, the passenger is assigned 100% of the blame.

When you’re the driver in a complicated situation like this, you might hesitate to sue a passenger - especially if they’re your friend or family member. But is that person offering to pay your medical bills, cover your car repairs, and reimburse you for all the days of work you missed? Probably not.

Even for a minor accident, an auto liability claim is often more than $10,000. According to Verisk, an insurance analytics company, the average claim for bodily injury is more than $15,000 and grew 31% between 2008 and 2017. This amount is often tripled in a car accident claim to account for other costs, like pain and suffering.

Uber Drivers Can Sue Their Passengers

If you drive for Uber or Lyft, you can sue a passenger for causing your car accident. California already has a history of Uber drivers suing passengers for attacking them, which is the kind of behavior that could easily cause a crash.

In one well-publicized incident, a passenger repeatedly punched his Uber driver after being asked to leave the car due to drunkenness and an inability to provide a clear destination. The Uber driver sued the passenger over his physical injuries and emotional suffering.

Keep in mind that California rideshare companies are required to carry $1 million in insurance just in case someone is injured in an accident. Insurance coverage might apply to a driver suing a passenger, depending on the situation.

Will Insurance Cover My Accident if a Passenger Caused it?

After an accident, your insurance company might decide to cover your claim, going after the passenger or another driver in the accident later via a process called “subrogation” to recoup their costs. They might offer you a low-dollar payout, hoping you’ll take it. Or they might say they won’t cover it at all, making you have to pursue the passenger yourself. The outcome depends on the circumstances and how hard you’re willing to fight.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that in the U.S., private insurers cover about 50% of all motor vehicle crash costs. Victims/parties to crashes pay 26%, healthcare providers and charities pay 14%, and other costs end up being paid by federal and local entities.

Of course, there’s never a guarantee that an insurance company or anyone else will write you a check after an accident. You might have to contact an experienced California car accident attorney and sue to get the compensation you deserve. Contact Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers for your FREE online car accident case evaluation now.


Veronica S.

Rebecca Taylor, Amber Via, and their team at Sally Morin Law are amazing! 

They were super communicative and made the whole process very clear for me. They took on all of the work of contacting the insurance company for the property damage claim and the bodily injury claim and hospital billing department for me. They took the time to answer all of my questions and were super supportive of the decisions that I made. They made the task of gathering all of the materials from my accident super easy and accessible. All of their work is done online and via email or phone. They were super understanding about my injury and physical limitations. 

Rebecca and her team made such a clear argument to the insurance company that they were able to get the full ask from the first claim with no back and fourth!! I would recommend their law firm to anyone based in the Bay who has been in an accident.

Experience a serious car accident in San Francisco?

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We Handle Your Car Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life

After an injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including passenger-at-fault accidents. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details. We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.

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