When insurance companies determine fault for a
car accident, the focus is primarily on the drivers involved. Common reasons include
texting while driving, speeding, drunk driving, or otherwise committing
a traffic violation.
But what if a passenger distracted the driver or impeded his/her ability
to safely operate the vehicle? The truth is that if passengers act negligently
or recklessly, they can be held solely liable for causing a crash, or
share fault with the driver.
Do Passengers Have Responsibilities in the Vehicle?
All drivers are responsible for operating their vehicles safely and following
traffic laws since they are behind the wheel. On the other hand, passengers
have little to no responsibility for operating the vehicle.
Therefore, passengers generally can’t be held responsible for causing
an accident because they are not driving. However, passengers can help
drivers with operating the vehicle, such as keeping an eye out for dangerous
or unexpected road conditions or reminding the driver to wear a seat belt.
How Passengers Can Be Held Liable in a Car Accident
The following are several situations in which a passenger can be held responsible
for a car accident:
Distracting the driver – Passengers who divert a driver’s focus
away from the main task of operating a vehicle can cause a collision.
Common examples include showing the driver a message or social media post
on a cellphone, arguing or fighting with the driver, or fiddling with
the radio or temperature controls.
Encouraging or enabling the driver – Passengers can also be held
liable for an accident if they encourage or enable a driver to operate
the vehicle, even though the person is unfit to drive. For example, if
you begged an already intoxicated driver to drive and the driver is involved
in a collision, you could be held partially responsible for causing the accident.
Driving the vehicle as a passenger – If, as a passenger, you grab
the steering wheel, or push the gas or brake pedals while the vehicle
is in motion, and then cause a crash, you can be held liable for the collision.
Comparative Negligence in Florida
If a passenger is at fault for causing a car accident, the driver is most
likely also to blame since he/she was driving the vehicle at the time
of the incident. If the passenger and driver share liability, Florida
follows a “pure comparative fault law,” which means the total
dollar amount of the plaintiff’s (injured party’s) damages
will be based on the defendants’ share of fault.