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Is a Passenger Liable for an Accident?

Posted on: February 8, 2024

Drivers are responsible for driving safely and devoting their best efforts to prevent car accidents. Yet, while passengers might think this does not apply to them, their actions can make drivers get into crashes. It is true that drivers are ultimately in charge of their vehicles when they are behind the wheel. You may not realize that passengers should also uphold a duty of care to encourage safe driving and protect themselves, their drivers, and others sharing the road. Passengers do not have the right to endanger the lives of others.

Passengers are not usually held accountable for motor vehicle accidents because they were not driving. However, here are examples of when passengers can be held liable:

  • Enabling and encouraging a driver: Passengers could be held partially liable for damages incurred in a crash when they enable and encourage people to drive when they are unfit to do that – this can also be seen as peer pressure. One example might be talking an intoxicated driver into taking them home or agreeing to ride along to a bar when both are under the influence.
  • Incapacitating a driver: A passenger could also be held responsible for interfering with the driver’s ability to operate their vehicle. They might distract the driver by yelling, pushing them, covering their eyes, or sharing alcohol or drugs with them.
  • Taking control of the vehicle: Some passengers may grab hold of the steering wheel, put their foot on the accelerator, or attempt to operate the vehicle in other ways when the driver should be in charge. Trying to take over any mechanical part of the vehicle that impacts its maneuverability is dangerous.

Can I Claim That My Passenger Was Responsible for My Car Accident?

In the aftermath of a car accident, the question of responsibility is often complex and multifaceted. While it may be tempting to claim that a passenger was responsible for the accident, doing so typically hinges on the event’s specific circumstances. Generally, the driver is considered primarily responsible for the vehicle’s safe operation, regardless of any distractions or actions taken by passengers. However, there could be exceptional cases where a passenger’s behavior directly contributed to the accident, such as grabbing the steering wheel or intentionally obstructing the driver’s view. In such instances, thorough investigation and evidence collection are crucial to substantiate any claims of the passenger’s responsibility. Ultimately, consulting with a lawyer is advisable to navigate the complexities of assigning fault in a car accident.

Contact Our New Jersey Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law for a Free Consultation

Ultimately, the specific facts determine when a passenger is to blame for an accident. Contact our experienced New Jersey car accident lawyers at Ellis Law for a free consultation. Complete our online form or call 732-308-0200 today. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Asbury Park, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Long Branch, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.

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