If you were riding as a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in an accident, you may be wondering about your legal rights to recover damages from the at-fault driver. As a victim injured through no fault of your own, you have likely incurred medical bills and lost wages while recovering.
There are several factors courts consider when assessing whether a passenger has grounds to pursue a claim against the driver or against another motorist. You can learn more by consulting with a car accident lawyer, but first let’s examine the specific cases where passengers can and cannot bring a lawsuit under state law.
When Can a Passenger Sue the Driver?
As a passenger, you can pursue a claim against the driver of the vehicle you were in if the driver’s negligence or recklessness caused the accident. It’s important to note that a lawsuit is subject to Florida’s no-fault rule.
While the driver’s Florida auto insurance and PIP policy may cover your losses, some injuries exceed the limits and you may need to sue the negligent driver. Some examples where you may have grounds to sue the driver include:
The Driver Was Under the Influence
If the driver was intoxicated, impaired by drugs, or extremely fatigued, they may be liable for any injuries to passengers. Driving under the influence is against the law for good reason – it dramatically increases the risk of accidents.
The Driver Was Reckless
If the driver made an unsafe maneuver like speeding excessively, texting while driving, or running a red light, their reckless choices could make them responsible for injuries to passengers.
The Driver Violated Traffic Laws
Drivers are required to follow basic traffic safety laws. If an accident occurred because they broke a traffic law, like crossing a median or driving the wrong way, passengers can potentially sue for compensation.
The Driver Was Distracted
Common distractions like talking on a cell phone, eating, or adjusting the radio can take a driver’s attention off the road. If this distracted driving resulted in an accident, the driver may be considered negligent.
In any accident caused by the driver’s own negligence or misconduct, injured passengers have the right to pursue compensation through a personal injury claim. A car accident lawyer can help you prove negligence and fight to maximize your compensation.
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When Is the Driver Generally Not Liable for Passenger Injuries?
In some cases, the driver who was operating the vehicle is not responsible for injuries to passengers:
Another Driver Caused the Crash
If another driver ran a stop sign and collided with the vehicle, the not-at-fault driver who was operating the vehicle is not responsible for any injuries to passengers. The at-fault driver would be liable.
Poor Road Conditions or Vehicle Defects
If dangerous road conditions like an unseen pothole or a vehicle defect caused a crash, it is not the driver’s fault. Passengers cannot sue the driver but may pursue claims against other parties.
If the driver tried to avoid an animal suddenly darting onto the road but could not prevent an accident, they are not considered negligent. Unavoidable crashes are known as “acts of God” in legal terms.
The Passenger Was Not Wearing a Seatbelt
If a passenger failed to wear a seatbelt and sustained worse injuries in the crash as a result, the driver is not responsible for those enhanced damages. However, the driver may still be liable for injuries the passenger would have sustained even while properly seatbelted.
So in these types of accidents, the driver operating the vehicle is generally not at fault due to circumstances outside their control. Passengers usually cannot win a personal injury claim against an innocent driver.
When Can Passengers Sue Other Drivers?
Even if the driver of the vehicle you were in is not liable, passengers may still be able to bring a claim against another driver who caused the crash. Common scenarios include:
- The other driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- The other driver was texting, speeding excessively, or breaking other traffic laws
- The other driver ran a stop sign or red light and crashed into your vehicle
- The other driver crossed into your lane and struck your vehicle head-on
Essentially if the accident occurred due to another motorist’s negligent, reckless, or illegal actions, you may be able to sue for liability if your case pierces the tort threshold. An experienced auto accident attorney can help passengers build a strong claim against the at-fault driver to recover damages.
Contact Us to Learn More About Who Is Liable for Passenger Injuries in a Car Crash
Determining who can be held liable for a passenger’s injuries after a car crash can be complex, but that is where a Florida car accident attorney can help. The Schiller Kessler Group understands the stress and uncertainty facing car accident passengers in their recovery process.
We are dedicated to fully advising injured clients on their potential legal options for compensation following a crash. Contact Us today to learn more in a free case evaluation with no obligation.