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Passenger Car Accident Claims in California

Passenger car accident claims in California are a different variety of personal injury. Passengers in vehicles are usually not the registered owner of the motor vehicle nor are they subject to the same standards as drivers for recovery of compensation if they sustain bodily harm. Whether the accident happens in a large urban area like Los Angeles, Orange County or the Inland Empire, the legal rights are the same as the Golden State has statewide statutes and rules of law that come into play.

California Law on The Rights of Vehicle Passengers to Recover for Personal Injuries Sustained in Crashes

Under the Laws of the State of California, a passenger is under some duty to care for his or her own safety such as wearing a seat belt, not getting into a vehicle where the driver is known to be intoxicated and other, common sense measures. However, CA legal standards do not place the same burden of care on a passenger in a vehicle than on a motor vehicle operator. In fact, the law states as follows:

“A passenger is not required to be aware of the conditions on the highway and is entitled to expect that a driver will use reasonable care. However, if a passenger becomes aware of [a danger on the highway] [the driver’s impairment or failure to use reasonable care], then the passenger must take reasonable steps to protect his or her safety.” California Civil Jury Instruction 711.

What does this mean? It indicates that every person who enters another person’s vehicle can expect that the driver of the vehicle will use caution and obey the rules of the road. The passenger cannot predict that dangers may be presented to the driver for which the passenger is unaware. The rider has no “duty to look” constantly for danger and can only be required to protect themselves when they have actual notice of the danger. Because California is a comparative fault jurisdiction, a defendant’s award of damages can be reduced by the percentage to which he or she contributed or caused their own harm. What this rule states is that it cannot be considered “comparative negligence” for a mere rider to not protect against dangers presented by the driver’s conduct or other factors beyond the passenger’s control.

Importance of Attorney Representation in Claims for Injury to a Vehicle Occupant

Despite the clear rule of law that a passenger is rarely deemed the “at fault” party in a car crash, insurance companies will make any argument to either deny or diminish the value of a claim. This is why it is important to retain a legal represenative to refute such arguments and to determine whether the legal obligation to pay rests with the driver of the vehicle in which the occupant is riding, other vehicles involved in the collision, or other parties that may have caused or contributed to the incident. Every traffic collision is different. Sometimes determining legal fault is easy and sometimes it is difficult. A good lawyer will thoroughly investigate the facts of your particular wreck by examining the physical evidence such as skid marks, points of impact, property damage, positions of vehicles and other factors. In addition, a quality attorney can obtain witness statements, police reports and other indications of what people saw at the time of the incident.

One other factor in California, is proposition 213 (now codified in the CA. Civil Code). This normally disallows recovery of pain and suffering to a person who owns or operates a vehicle and is without insurance. Prop. 213 does NOT apply to a passenger who is traveling in an uninsured vehicle. They would still be allowed to recover for emotional distress against any at fault motor vehicle operators. This is yet another reason to seek legal contact us and representation if this applies to your situation.

Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC has been representing injured passengers throughout California for two decades. We have prosecuted civil claims for money damages in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and the Inland Empire and obtained maximum recovery for many victims. Call today for a free consultation.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.