Car accidents are a primary reason for heated negotiations between an injured victim and another driver’s insurance company. They are also the basis for civil lawsuits seeking financial compensation from the driver who caused the crash. Typically, these controversies center around the drivers involved in the accident. However, does an injured passenger have legal rights? Can they sue the person who was driving the vehicle they were in? What about suing the driver of another car? the answer to each of these questions is “yes.”
If you were a passenger who was injured in a car accident, you have every right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident – even if you were traveling in the car of the negligent driver. Every driver in Maryland has a duty of care to other motorists, pedestrians, and passengers to safely operate their vehicle. Being a passenger in a negligent driver’s car does not make the driver immune from responsibility.
Suing the driver of the car you are in brings certain challenges. In nearly every case, the driver is a friend or family member. This makes for a difficult and delicate situation. Our empathetic and professional Maryland car accident attorneys are aware of these additional challenges and handle such cases with the care they deserve. Call Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 to discuss your case and legal options.
Understanding the Role of a Passenger in a Car Accident
A passenger has a different role in a car accident than the drivers involved in the crash. When a driver sues another driver, they are alleging that the other driver was at fault. To counter that allegation, the defendant driver will often claim that the plaintiff contributed to or caused the accident. Deciding who was actually at fault is usually done through negotiations with an insurance company or by presenting evidence at trial.
However, a passenger is in a unique position. In nearly every case, an injured passenger is not a liable party. As a passenger, you could still have a right to compensation even if the driver of your vehicle was completely at fault. In this situation, you have every right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the car you were in at the time of the accident. Our Ocean City car accident lawyers are prepared to help you in this case.
Passengers and Maryland’s Contributory Negligence Laws
In personal injury cases, Maryland courts follow a legal doctrine known as “contributory negligence.” For many injured victims, this harsh doctrine serves as a barrier to receiving any compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. When assessing damages and fault in a car accident case, a Maryland jury will be tasked with coming up with a compensation figure. Additionally, they will have to apportion fault between the drivers involved in the accident. In nearly every other jurisdiction in the country, a plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage they contributed to the accident. For example, an award of $60,000 would be reduced to $54,000 if the plaintiff was 10% at fault. However, in Maryland, if a plaintiff’s actions contributed to the accident, they are barred from recovering anything from the defendant.
Fortunately, this is rarely a problem for a passenger. If the driver of the car you were in is barred from receiving compensation, it does not impact your claim. In fact, if multiple drivers were at fault, you could file a lawsuit against each one. If your injuries are severe and the respective insurance policies are limited, suing both parties could be a way to receive the total compensation you deserve.
Passengers Still Must Prove Negligence
Even though there is rarely a question of your culpability as a passenger after a car accident, you still must prove that another party was negligent. Therefore, if the driver of your car caused the accident, our Towson car accident attorney will still have to establish the four elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Whether it was the driver of the car you were in or another driver, it is critical to gather evidence to prove that another person’s negligence caused your injuries. For example, a police report that cited the driver of your car for speeding or ignoring a red light could be valuable evidence. Your testimony could also be important. Before speaking with an insurance company, you should talk with an experienced attorney. Anything you say could be used to reduce or deny your claim.
Holding a Passenger Liable for a Car Accident
As discussed above, a passenger is usually just an innocent victim in a car accident. Even if the passenger was engaged in a conversation with the driver, the responsibility to safely operate a vehicle rest solely on the driver. However, there are rare instances when a passenger’s conduct could have contributed to an accident. For example, if a passenger grabbed the wheel from the driver and forcibly turned the car. Such an intentional action could open a passenger to liability.
The above example is extreme and rare. Nevertheless, some actions could impact your claim. For instance, if you knowingly get into a car driven by someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it could limit your ability to seek compensation if an accident occurs. Do not assume your case will be easy just because you were a passenger – contact our Annapolis car accident lawyers.
If You Were a Passenger in a Car Accident, Contact Our Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers
You have legal rights as an injured passenger. These rights are critical if you suffered serious injuries resulting in expensive medical bills and lost time at work. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our team of Maryland car accident lawyers is also dedicated to representing innocent passengers. To review your legal options during a free consultation, call (410) 694-7291.