Car accidents often result in personal injury settlements for those who were injured. That means the at-fault driver can face an insurance claim or even a lawsuit. But what if you weren’t one of the drivers in the accident at all? Whether you were a passenger or someone else was driving your car, you might be concerned about your part in the legal process. Is there any risk of legal action being taken against you?
In most cases, you don’t need to worry about having legal action taken against you if you weren’t a driver in a car accident. (On the contrary, you might actually have grounds to sue one or more of the drivers if you were a passenger.) But there are a few rare situations where you might face consequences after an accident if you weren’t driving. We’ll explore those below.
Can I Be Sued if I Was a Passenger in a Car Accident?
When injuries and other damages resulting from a car accident in an at-fault state like Georgia, the person who was negligent (or careless) and caused the accident is responsible for the costs. That means the accident victim(s) can submit a claim to the at-fault driver’s auto insurance or sue them for damages.
When two cars get into an accident, one of the drivers is usually at fault and responsible for damages. In some cases, both are liable. It’s really uncommon for a passenger is found to be at fault for a car accident, but it is possible.
When a Passenger Could Be at Fault
To be found at-fault as a passenger, you would need to have actively interfered with the driver’s ability to control their vehicle. For example, say you were a front passenger and, during an argument, you reached over and grabbed the driver’s steering wheel. You jerked the wheel to the right, causing the car to swerve off the road or into another lane of traffic. As a result, the driver was seriously injured and the car was totaled.
In the above situation, you could be liable because the accident wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t grabbed the wheel. If there were other factors that led to the accident—like if the driver was also speeding—that could also affect your percentage of fault. But in this type of situation, it would be possible for the driver (or another driver, if the vehicle you were in hit their car and caused injuries) to take legal action against you.
However, there are other instances where you might distract the driver but wouldn’t be found at fault. For example, if you said something to them and they looked away from a busy road and crashed, the fault would still be on the driver. Even though you spoke to them, they didn’t have to look away from the road.
What if Another Person Was Driving My Car During the Accident?
If your car was in an accident, you could be held liable even if you weren’t physically in the said accident. There are a few different ways you may face a lawsuit if someone else was driving your car and wrecked.
All drivers have a legal duty to not put other drivers in danger on the road. If you entrust the use of your car to a person who was unfit to drive—like if they were driving recklessly or drunk—you could be accused of negligent entrustment.
Georgia also recognizes something called the “family purpose doctrine,” which holds the owner of a vehicle liable if an injury or death happens that a family member living in their house caused. For example, if the teenager of a parent is at fault for an accident and the other driver is hurt or killed in the crash, the parent could be held liable.
If you are an employer who allows an employee to drive a company vehicle and get into an accident that leads to injuries or damages, you may be responsible as a business owner. This is known as “vicarious liability.” However, your liability can depend on factors like whether or not the employee was on the clock during the accident and more.
Another example of this could be loaning your car to someone you know is an unsafe driver or has a bad driving record. If that driver gets into an accident in your vehicle, you could be held responsible because you knowingly let them drive despite their history.
Despite the situations above, merely owning a vehicle does not automatically make you liable for the negligence of the driver. If you’re unsure, it’s best to contact a car accident lawyer who can let you know what to expect based on your circumstances.
What If I Was Injured as a Passenger?
While there are certain circumstances where you could face legal action in a car accident where you weren’t the driver, we most commonly see the opposite scenario. Many times, a passenger is injured in an action and makes a claim or takes legal action against one or more of the drivers.
If you were hurt in a car accident as a passenger, you may be entitled to financial recovery from one or both of the drivers—including the driver of the car you were in. You will want to contact a car accident lawyer and explain your situation so they can determine your best course of action.
Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer for Free Today
It’s rare to face legal action if you weren’t a driver in an accident, but it’s not impossible. Never assume one way or the other—or take the blame for anything—until you’ve spoken to a car accident lawyer who can look at the whole situation.
Our attorneys at John Foy & Associates can help. For more than two decades, we’ve been helping car accident victims seek the financial recovery they need to cover costs and move on from their accident. If you need help in the aftermath of your accident, contact us today for a FREE consultation so we can answer your questions. Call us at 404-400-4000, or fill out the form on this page for your free consultation.