If a Driver is Not at Fault in a Car Accident can a Passenger Sue?
As we all know, being in a car accident is not a pleasant experience for anyone involved. It does not matter if you are the driver or a passenger and played no role whatsoever in the collision, a car accident is most definitely inconvenient and can be a life changing event with permanent implications.
The Difference Between Passenger and Driver Rights
As a passenger, normally you do not have any responsibility for causing the accident itself. As a blameless party, you should be entitled to compensation for all of your damages. However, a driver in a car accident will often have a limited ability to collect damages, based on how much responsibility he or she is assessed to have in the accident. This is called proportionate responsibility.
For example, if a driver is injured in a car accident in Texas, he or she cannot recover damages from the other party if he is 51% or more at fault for the accident. If the driver is found to be less than 50% at fault for causing the accident, his or her recovery will be reduced by whatever percentage of fault he is found responsible for. For example, if a driver is awarded $100,000 in damages and was found to be 30% at fault, while the defendant is found to be 70% at fault in total, the plaintiff would be entitled to recover $70,000. However, if the driver is found to be 51% or more at fault, then he or she will be barred from any recovery.
However, in most cases because of the fact a passenger did not cause or contribute to the cause of the accident, and thus is blameless, the passenger should be entitled to the a full recovery of his or damages as no percentage of fault can be assessed against him or her. In this case, the passenger usually has the right to sue all of the drivers who were involved in the accident for damages for their proportionate responsibility.
This right is particularly important in cases where the passenger has suffered catastrophic and/or permanent injuries with expensive medical bills that need to be paid but that exceed the liability insurance policy limits of each of the individual drivers. In this situation, the passenger does have the right and ability to sue all drivers with the hope that all of the drivers’ policy limits added together will be enough to fully compensate the passenger for his or her damages. Therefore, a passenger is not limited to seeking compensation from just one driver involved in an accident and may, and probably should, attempt to recover from the driver of his or her vehicle.
What if the Accident Was Not Your Driver’s Fault?
In order to be held liability to pay for damages resulting from a car accident, the injured party must prove that some act or omission by each of the drivers caused and/or contributed to the cause of the accident and your resulting injuries. This means that you must prove that each of the drivers were at least partially at fault for causing the accident.
As such, if a driver who is being sued did not cause or contribute to the cause of the accident, and thus, is not at fault, he or she will likely not be held liable for a passenger’s claims. The court (jury in most civil cases) will assess who was at fault in the accident, the percentages of fault to the drivers, and if a driver that is being sued by the passenger is assessed to not have any percentage of fault at all for the accident, he or she will not be liable and will not be required to pay any of the damages suffered by the passenger as a result of the accident.
However, a passenger in a car accident should most certainly sue any and all parties that may be responsible for proximately causing the accident and/or resulting injuries. Even if suing your own driver, who may or may not be at fault, ultimately does not increase your recovery, the passenger would be strongly advised to sue all of the drivers involved in an accident as a reasonable jury may assess some percentage of fault against him or her.
As a practical note, if there are more than two vehicles involved in the accident, it is important to get all of the necessary contact information from each of the drivers and all passengers, including their names, addresses, phone numbers, vehicle information, and insurance information. The easiest way to get most of this information to use your phone and take pictures of the vehicles, drivers’ licenses, insurance cards, and/or write all of this information down in the Notes application on your phone.
It is extremely important to note, that if you or a loved one finds yourself in this situation, before dealing with the insurance companies, please contact Chandler | Ross, PLLC immediately for a free consultation. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you.
With offices in Denton, Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, Chandler | Ross, PLLC and our Car Accident Attorneys are well positioned to provide the most effective, experienced and highly-skilled representation possible with a convenient location near you. Our experienced Denton/Dallas/Fort Worth Car Accident Attorneys can quickly respond to an accident, gather necessary information and preserve evidence in order to maximize your chances of recovery. Don’t wait, and don’t compromise – contact us today to see how we can help you. In most cases, you pay nothing unless we are able to settle your case or win a verdict. Our consultation is free. Contact us now at (940) 800-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free car accident case evaluation and consultation.