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Can a Passenger be Responsible for Causing an Accident?

On behalf of Brad Wicker of BDIW Law posted on Friday January 14, 2022.

Drivers are often at fault for car crashes, but could others in the vehicle be held liable, as well?

Car accidents are common in Oklahoma. The state ranks high for having a high number of fatalities caused by crashes, with a rate of 11 crashes per 100,000 residents.

Car crashes are usually caused by drivers, but believe it or not, there are situations in which the passenger can be held liable. That is right—if a passenger interferes with the safe operation of a vehicle, they can be held liable and be forced to pay damages. This does not happen often, though, since the passenger is not typically in control of the vehicle.

What does this mean and how does it happen? Read on to learn more.

How Does a Passenger Cause an Accident?

Car accidents can be caused by distractions from the passenger. Passengers should allow drivers to focus on the road and not cause distractions. They should be acting in a safe manner and helping the driver, if possible, instead of acting recklessly.

A passenger does not have to be doing much to cause an accident. Even having an emotional conversation can lead to a crash. Here are some other ways in which a passenger can cause an accident:

  • Blocking the driver’s view
  • Taking photos or videos of the driver
  • Trying to show the driver photos or videos on their phone
  • Changing the radio station, navigation, or other controls
  • Grabbing the steering wheel
  • Hitting or physically assaulting the driver in some way

Responsibility of the Driver

Even if the passenger contributes to a car accident, the driver could still be held liable. That is because drivers have a responsibility to focus on safely operating the vehicle and must do their best to ignore anything that could interfere with safe and attentive driving.

This means that when passengers act out of control, drivers need to act accordingly. They should simply disregard the actions of the passenger or pull over, if safe to do so. If the passenger directly causes the accident but the driver could have avoided it, then both could be held liable to some degree.

However, there are situations where it may not be possible to ignore the passenger’s reckless behavior and avoid a crash. For example, if the passenger suddenly grabs the steering wheel and makes the vehicle go into a ditch, how could the driver have prevented that? They could try to regain control of the wheel, but there is not really any way they could have known ahead of time that the passenger would do something like that.

Contact Tulsa Car Accident Lawyers Today

Many drivers have dealt with rowdy and annoying passengers. These passengers can cause safety issues by making a driver take their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel and get into a serious accident.

The Oklahoma car accident attorneys at Boettcher, Devinney, Ingle & Wicker can assess your car accident and help determine liability. Call (580) 765-9660 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation today.