Can Passengers Be Liable for Their Own Injuries in an Auto Accident?
As a passenger, certain choices you make may limit your ability to secure compensation following an auto accident.
As a passenger in a motor vehicle, you might think that you are just a passive participant in any accident that may occur. If you are injured, it must be someone else’s fault, right? In reality, you can be held at least partially responsible for your own injuries in certain situations.
California’s Doctrine of Comparative Negligence
In order to understand when a passenger might be partially liable for their own car accident injuries, we first have to understand California’s doctrine of comparative negligence. Basically, this legal doctrine allows for the legal and financial responsibility for any car accident to be divided proportionally between two or more parties according to their role in any injuries resulting from that accident.
So for example, perhaps one car rear-ended another. If both drivers were doing something wrong, they could both be held responsible. Perhaps the driver that got rear-ended stopped short for a turn without signaling, and perhaps the driver behind them was speeding and therefore could not avoid the accident. Maybe the court assigned the first driver 60 percent of the fault for the accident and the other driver 40 percent. Either driver could sue the other, but neither could recover 100 percent of their damages. Instead their damages would be reduced by a percentage corresponding to their own liability for the accident.
Assumption of Risk by a Passenger
There are two mistakes a passenger could make that could bring the doctrine of comparative negligence into play and harm their ability to recover 100 percent of their damages following a car accident.
First, if a passenger knowingly gets into a vehicle with a driver that is intoxicated, it could be argued that the passenger willingly accepted the risks associated with riding with such a driver. If the intoxicated driver then causes an accident, the passenger may be assigned partial responsibility for their own injuries. It is important to note here that passengers cannot sue drivers if they live in the same household, as they would both be on the same insurance coverage.
Secondly, if a passenger fails to put on their seatbelt and is then injured, they would be assumed liable for at least some of their own damages, regardless of who caused the accident. This is because by not wearing a seatbelt, the passenger likely increased the severity of their own injuries through no fault of any other party but themselves.
Need an Auto Accident Attorney?
In cases where you may be accused of comparative negligence as a passenger, it is essential to have a skilled auto accident injury attorney on your side. You can count on Fernando D. Vargas to secure any and all relevant evidence that may help to disprove claims of comparative negligence and get you the maximum compensation that may be appropriate in your case.