Can a Passenger be to Blame for Causing an Accident?

In a car crash, multiple parties could be to blame. Reach out to a car accident attorney for a free case evaluation to learn more.

When a car accident or another type of serious accident occurs, there are usually two main parties involved — the injured party and the party suspected to be responsible—i.e. the other driver. However, in some cases, a third party may hold blame and some level of legal responsibility for causing an accident, such as a passenger in the vehicle of the driver who caused the crash. Here is an overview of what you should know about third-party liability for accidents in Tennessee.

Can a Passenger Hold Blame for Causing an Accident?

The first thing to know about passengers is that they do not owe the same level of care as drivers to others on the road; drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner and to operate within the confines of all traffic laws—passengers owe no such duty, as they are not operators. As such, it is very rare for a passenger to be held liable for an accident, even if they were doing something distracted. For example, a passenger who is distracting the driver by chatting may indeed be a distraction, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the driver to drive safely.

With that in mind, there are a few situations in which liability for a crash may partially fall on the shoulders of the passenger. For example, if the passenger physically grabbed the steering wheel, thereby causing the crash, liability may be shared. However, even in this case, it is likely still the owner of the car’s insurance company that would be responsible for paying damages to the injured party. What’s more, it would likely be difficult for a driver to prove that the passenger engaged in the behavior and that the behavior was the proximate cause of the crash.

Third-Party Liability for Accidents in TN

While passengers usually are not held liable for accidents in our state, other third parties may be. Examples of third parties who could be held legally responsible for a crash and related damages include:

  • Vehicle manufacturers and distributors if a vehicle defect is the cause of the crash;
  • Parties responsible for road maintenance if a hazard on the roadway caused the crash; or
  • A bar or distributor of alcohol if the accident was caused by an intoxicated person who was over-served by the distributor and intoxication was the proximate cause of the crash.

Note that liability may be shared amongst two or more parties, in which case the rule of comparative negligence would apply. Under the rule of comparative negligence, each partially liable party would be responsible for damages in proportion to their degree of fault.

Reach Out to Our Car Accident Lawyers Directly Today

If you have been in a car accident in Tennessee and have questions about liability and recovering damages, connect with our TN car accident attorney at the office of Bednarz Law. We can help you to understand liability laws, prove fault, and recover the compensation award you deserve. We offer free consultations, so call today or send us a message online to get started.