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Oct 20, 2016

If you are a passenger involved in a motor vehicle accident, you may have access to certain personal injury claims that a driver in the same situation does not have access to. Specifically, injured passengers may be able to file a personal injury claim against multiple drivers, including the driver of the vehicle that they were a passenger in at the time of injury. The unique legal position of a passenger in relation to a motor vehicle accident opens up several interesting opportunities for recovery of damages.

Understanding Driver and Passenger Fault

California applies pure comparative negligence – otherwise known as pure comparative fault – under which each involved party is assigned a percentage of the overall fault for the accident at-issue. Suppose, for example, that Driver 2 collides with Driver 1. The facts indicate that the defendant-driver (Driver 2) is 70% at fault for the accident, and the plaintiff-driver (Driver 1) is 30% at fault for the accident. If the plaintiff’s damages are $100,000, then the plaintiff will only be entitled to 70% of the damages amount, or $70,000. In some cases, a driver who is the victim of another driver’s negligence may still somewhat at-fault for the accident. From the perspective of an injured passenger in the vehicle, then, a personal injury claim must include all at-fault defendants. Let’s reconsider the above example from the perspective of a passenger. Suppose that you are riding as a passenger in Driver 1’s vehicle. Driver 2 collides with Driver 1 on a local road. The accident results in injuries to you, the passenger. Again, Driver 2 is 70% at fault for the accident, while Driver 1 – your driver – is 30% at fault. Your damages are $100,000. As you are not at fault for the accident (both drivers share the fault), you would be entitled to the full $100,000, should you succeed in your personal injury claim.

Claim Against Your Driver

Claims against the driver of the passenger are common, especially in “solo” accidents where no other drivers are involved – for example, the driver of a motor vehicle may crash into an object on the side of the road without outside interference. Claims against the driver are based on a theory of negligence. All drivers owe a duty of care to their passengers. They are required to exercise reasonable care to ensure that their passengers are safe. If the driver fails to exercise reasonable care in operating their vehicle – and this failure results in passenger injuries – the passenger may have a legitimate personal injury claim against their driver. Bear in mind that commercial drivers – taxis, buses, shuttles, and other passenger carrier services – owe the strictest duty of care to their passengers. They are known as “Common Carriers.” This higher duty of care is explicitly set out in California Civil Code section 2100.

Rideshare Services

Rideshare services are unique in that, unlike standard passenger services, the drivers operate as independent contractors. California has implemented regulations requiring rideshare companies (also known as Transportation Network Companies) to provide a minimum of $1 million in liability insurance coverage. As a passenger, you therefore have access to substantial insurance coverage in the event of an injury. Whether rideshare services such as Uber are considered “common carriers” – and thus subject to a stricter duty of care to their passengers – is a matter that has yet to be fully resolved. Recent case law has indicated that some California judges are willing to define ridesharing companies as “common carriers,” though the case law is rather inconsistent. If you were injured in an accident as a passenger – even if the accident involved rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft – seek the consultation of a skilled personal injury attorney to assess your claim and move forward with the personal injury process. Call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 539-9582 for a free consultation with an experienced Uber accident lawyer today.

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