Personal Injury

Can an Injured Passenger Sue Both Drivers After a Car Accident?

By David Berg, Attorney
When you're injured in a car accident as a passenger, you might be able to get recovery from more than one of the drivers involved in the crash, but your options will depend on how fault is assessed and attributed.

A passenger who is injured in a car accident has the legal right to file an insurance claim (and a personal injury lawsuit, if necessary) against any driver whose negligence played a part in causing the crash. Let’s see how car accident passenger injury claims work in terms of liability for the accident.

Example 1: Both Drivers Probably Liable For the Car Accident

Let’s say that you were a passenger in a car that was making a left turn, and then was was hit by an oncoming car. In that situation, you have the right to sue the driver of the car you were riding if he or she was negligent in executing the turn, and you have the right to sue the driver of the oncoming car if he or she was negligent (i.e. if the other driver was speeding or texting and that contributed to the accident). Both drivers could be found negligent in that situation, and when you're injured as a passenger, it's not your job to sort out which driver was more at fault, and what that means in terms of financial liability for injuries and other losses stemming from the accident. You can let the drivers (and their respective insurance companies) figure it out. Learn more about How Insurance Affects a Car Accident Case.

Example 2: Only One Driver Likely Liable for the Accident

Let’s say that you were the passenger in a car that was involved in a rear-end collision. In rear-end collision claims, the driver of the car that was hit is rarely (if ever) found to be at fault. A rear-end collision is almost always the fault of the trailing car, since the car in front is almost always stationary, and it is every driver’s duty to take reasonable steps to avoid hitting stationary objects. Even if the car in front is slowing down (perhaps to avoid something in the road), it is still the job of the driver behind to keep a safe distance from cars that might suddenly slow down.

So, if you were the passenger in a car that was involved in a rear-end collision, your options for seeking recovery for your injuries are probably limited to making a claim against the tailing driver. From a practical standpoint, you can usually make a claim with the car insurance company that represents the driver of the car you were riding in (this is known as a "third party" claim) and then let that insurance company deal with the tailing driver's insurer to figure out who's going to write the settlement check.

Make Sure All Liability Possibilities are Covered In Your Lawsuit

If you are the passenger in a two-car (or multi-vehicle) collision, and you are filing a lawsuit, you always want to make sure you sue all of the potentially liable drivers in the same lawsuit. Otherwise, you might end up with inconsistent results if you sued the two drivers separately. It is certainly possible that, if you sue driver #1 only, the jury might find that driver #2 was actually responsible for the accident, either partially or entirely.

And you always want to avoid settling your claim with one driver and then going to trial against the other driver. In that case, you run the risk that, if you settle with driver #1 and go to trial against only driver #2, the jury might find that driver #2 was not negligent. At the very least, if you settle against only one driver in a two-car accident where you were a passenger, you want to make sure that any settlement you get from the one driver fairly reflects the odds that you might not get anything at all against the second driver. Get more tips on Personal Injury Settlements.

If you've been involved in a car accident within the last three years, please consider taking our car accident survey so that we can include your experience in Martindale-Nolo's 2016 Car Accident Survey. Your participation will help inform others about their situation and options before dealing with their car accident.

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