If you were a passenger involved in a car accident, you may have a right to bring a claim or lawsuit against the person who crashed into you, or the driver of the vehicle you were in, or both. Under personal injury law, anyone who by their carelessness or inattentiveness causes you to suffer harm is responsible for your injuries and can be held accountable. The legal rule of negligence requires all personal to act in a reasonably prudent manner to avoid injuring others. So if the driver of the vehicle you were in was at fault in causing the accident, you have a claim against him or her and any insurance carrier who insured that person. If the driver of the car that crashed into you was at fault for causing the accident, then your claim is against that person. If both drivers were partly responsible (for example, each was 50% at fault), then your claim should be brought against both of them. In addition, under California law the owner of one or both of the vehicles may be responsible.
So, as a passenger in a car accident, how do you determine who is responsible. What parties is it proper to bring your claim against? This is where some investigation is required. Normally, you will have an attorney who will do the investigating for your case. Your attorney would typically obtain a copy of any police report, interview any witnesses as appropriate, survey the accident location as needed, make a special legal request to the Department of Motor Vehicles for relevant owner and vehicle information (because the owner of one or more of the cars could potentially be held responsible for your losses), find out whether one of the negligent actors was acting within the course and scope of employment, and take other appropriate steps to preserve your rights.
With respect to owner liability, under California law owners of vehicles responsible for injuries that you suffered as a result of someone else’s use of their car. This liability is typically limited to $15,000.00 per person by provisions of the California Vehicle Code. However, if the owner was independently negligent, for example they let an intoxicated individual drive their car, then they can be held completely accountable.
Also, if one of the drivers was on the job and their car belonged to their employer, the employer may be held fully responsible. Under California law, when a person is driving a vehicle during the course and scope of employment, or as an agent for the employer, then the employer can be held fully responsible for your injuries and losses, including your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other financial damages.
As you can see, if you were a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a motor vehicle accident there are several parties that may potentially be liable to you and from whom you may seek compensation. There may be more than one driver who is responsible, and there may be a separate owner or employer that is on the hook. It is imperative that you perform a diligent investigation as early as possible in order to identify all potentially liable parties and take all appropriate steps to preserve your legal rights to bring a claim against them.