In our last post, we began speaking about the ability of a passenger to sue a driver for damages stemming from a car accident. This is an entirely possible scenario, of course, since at-fault parties may be held liable for damages they cause, regardless of the relationship between the driver the victim.

As we pointed out, though, passengers who become accident victims need to first understand the insurance coverage to which they are entitled and make sure they receive what is due to them through that avenue. In cases where insurance coverage is inadequate to cover damages, it may be necessary to pursue litigation, provided doing so is worth the time and cost. 

A second issue for injured passengers to be aware of is that Rhode Island recognizes a liability principle known as comparative fault, in which all negligent parties are assigned a relative degree of fault and are made responsible for their share of the damages. A passenger who sues a driver may, depending on the circumstances of the case, have to accept his or her share of the responsibility for the crash. This issue can come up, for instance, in drunken driving cases where the passenger had a role in allowing the intoxicated driver to get behind the wheel. It could also come up in cases where the passenger was distracting the driver.

A third consideration to keep in mind is that, depending on the relationship between the driver and the passenger, it may be best to resolve the matter outside the adversarial context. Family members concerned about maintaining good relations in the long-term could potentially benefit from mediating any disputes that come up during negotiations. Doing so could help not only with keeping the process more collaborative, but also with cost savings.

Source: Claims Journal, “Understanding Comparative Fault, Contributory Negligence and Joint & Several Liability,” Gary Wickert, Sep. 5, 2013.