If I am in a car accident driving and have a passenger in the car, can he or she sue me?
Passengers are generally considered not liable for anything that goes on in a car that he or she may be riding in. For instance, if a driver is drunk or otherwise impaired, it is generally not something that can be used against anyone else in the vehicle. This is because the driver is considered in control of the vehicle. Therefore, if you get into an accident, your passenger or passengers could sue you for damages.
Was the Accident Your Fault?
To be responsible for damages, the accident would have to be your fault. If you were hit by another person or your car had a malfunction, the crash is most likely not your fault, and you wouldn’t have to pay damages such as medical bills or other expenses incurred by others in your vehicle. In addition, you could sue for medical bills or other costs incurred because you were hurt in a car crash caused by someone else.
Single Car Crashes Are Typically Your Fault
If you are in a single car crash, you are almost by default the one who is responsible for it. For example, if you lost control of your vehicle because it was traveling at a high rate of speed and hit a median, that would be your fault. The same is true if you made a tight turn at a high rate of speed and hit a curb or a light pole. However, it wouldn’t be your fault if you lost control of the vehicle because of a pothole or if you were going at a safe speed when the vehicle encountered icy or slick roads.
What Type of Damages Could You Be Liable For?
The passenger in your car could sue you for his or her medical bills as well as lost wages and future earnings. Medical bills may include those incurred for medication, physical therapy or surgical procedures necessary to recover from injuries suffered in the crash. Any modifications that are made to an apartment, house or car can be part of a settlement or jury award.
If the passenger was a college student and he or she missed school, you may be liable for making up any costs that could not be refunded to that person. The cost to replace property damaged in the accident could also be included in the lawsuit. This may include any computers or other electronics such as a smartphone or tablet.
You will also be liable for court costs and any legal fees incurred by the passenger to pursue a case against you. In the event that a passenger dies, you could be liable to pay his or her final expenses such as the cost of holding a funeral. When a passenger dies in a crash that you were responsible for, a wrongful death case would be brought against you by that person’s family.
It Is In Your Best Interest to Talk With an Attorney
The first step after getting into an accident is to talk to and retain an attorney. Prior to talking to an attorney, it is generally not a good idea to say or do anything that implies that you are guilty. Even if you know that the accident was your fault or if the person you hurt was a close friend, an attorney’s job is much harder if there is no way to create doubt.
It is also important to realize that the accident may not be entirely your fault. If a jury finds that you were only 50 percent liable, it could change how much a passenger could ultimately collect from you. Other facts such as whether you were driving an employer vehicle could bring other parties into the case who are also liable for damages. If another party has what is called a deep pocket, that party may ultimately pay instead of you.
When you cause a car accident, you are liable for the injuries or other damages that a passenger may incur. The good news is that there may be ways to limit your liability or make it easier to pay what you owe without the need to liquidate assets or otherwise put yourself in a tough financial situation to satisfy a judgement.