Passengers Can Be Liable in Carpool Accidents

In every major city like Boston, carpools are a popular way to get to and from work. They offer an escape from the daily grind, allowing you to enjoy a cup of coffee on the way to work while you leave the driving to someone else.

If the carpool vehicle is involved in a car accident, you may think that you do not have a reason to worry about being held liable for the damages caused by the accident, as someone else was driving. Unfortunately, this is not always the case under the law.

Although, in general, the law holds the driver of the motor vehicle liable for any damages caused by the accident, passengers can sometimes be held liable under a legal doctrine called comparative negligence. In Massachusetts, comparative negligence allows the fault for the accident to be shared among everybody proportionally.

As an example, let's say that you as a passenger accidentally spilled your coffee on the driver and because of this, the driver has a rear-end accident with the vehicle in front of the carpool vehicle. If the other driver sues the driver of your carpool vehicle, under comparative negligence, the driver of your carpool can bring you into the lawsuit, by claiming that you caused him to crash because you spilled the coffee on him.

Once you are in the lawsuit, a court or jury will use Massachusetts's comparative negligence law to determine how much at fault you were for the accident. Once this has been determined, you are liable to the other driver for your share of the blame.

To use another example, let's say that the accident caused $50,000 in damages and the court or jury found that you are 80 percent at fault for the accident. In this case, you would owe the other driver $40,000; the driver of your carpool vehicle would be on the hook for the remaining $10,000.

It is a rare occurrence that passengers are held liable for the damages resulting from the accident. However, if passengers are a major distraction, they may find themselves having to pay a portion of an accident. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can advise you of your rights and work to recover compensation on your behalf.