When you’re a passenger in a traffic accident, you may feel as if you have no legal grounds to recover damages. However, when it comes time to recover damages for your injuries, passengers of car accidents may have an advantage over those who were behind the wheel. A passenger in a car accident could have an easier time recovering damages because they were not responsible for causing their own injuries of the injuries of others.
When determining who is at fault in a car accident, it often comes down to determining who was negligent. Generally, when someone acts in a careless way , and that carelessness leads to an injury, under the legal principle of “negligence” that careless person will be held responsible for the injury.
If the plaintiff is trying to prove another party was negligent, they must prove four elements to show the defendant(s) acted negligently:
- Duty: The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances
- Breach: The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way
- Causation: It was the defendant’s action, or lack of action, that actually caused the plaintiff’s injury
- Damages: The plaintiff was harmed or injured as a result of the defendant’s actions.
In a car accident involving more than one car, determining which driver was negligent or at fault is usually the main legal issue of the case. However, as a passenger in the accident, both drivers could be liable for your injuries. This means that no matter who is eventually deemed liable for the accident, you will most likely have a claim in the absence of another intervening cause.
Though you could potentially recover damages from both drivers, you may not be able to recover the entire amount of damages from each party. Some states only allow you to recover damages from each party in the amount that party was at fault for your injuries. In jurisdictions that follow joint and several liability, you could possibly recover your full amount of damages from any of the parties who were found responsible.
In addition to the drivers, there are a several other parties who could potentially be liable for your injuries. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, the owners of the vehicles involved in the accident could be held liable. This is because of negligent entrustment, a type of negligence action in which a party is accused of entrusting the use of their vehicle to someone who reckless, drunk, or otherwise unfit to drive. With negligent entrustment, the car owner violates the duty they legally owe to other drivers not to let a dangerous driver drive their car.
The manufacturer of the cars involved in the accident could be held liable because of product liability. Product liability involves a manufacturer or seller being held liable for allowing a consumer to receive a defective product. If product liability is involved with your claim, you could sue the manufacturer and every party involved in the chain of distribution, including the manufacturer or the car parts, wholesaler, retail store, and others. Seek advice from a personal injury lawyer to determine all the possible parties you could recover damages from.