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, 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.