When a driver injures or kills another person as a result of reckless or negligence behavior, he or she can generally be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit. But what about a passenger who encourages negligence or reckless driving? Can the passenger be held liable for resulting injuries or deaths? The issue of passenger liability for encouraging reckless driving was recently taken up by a California appellate court. The Court of Appeals recently held that whether a passenger can be held liable for encouraging unsafe driving is a question of fact to be determined based on the evidence. In Navarrette v. Meyer, (June 22, 2015) Cal.App.4th (Div. One), a passenger encouraged the driver to speed over bumps in the roadway to make the vehicle airborne. The driver accelerated, causing the car to jump. The driver then lost control and hit a parked car killing the driver of that car. The family of the decedent sued both the driver and the passenger alleging, among other things, a civil to encourage unsafe speed. The trial court agreed with the defendants that there was no cause of action against the passenger for conspiracy. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that, under the facts presented, the question of whether the passenger could be liable was an issue for the jury to decide. In its decision, the Court of Appeal adopted a broad view of those actions that could constitute willful interference with a driver’s control of the vehicle for purposes of liability under Vehicle Code section 21701. Whether you are a driver or a passenger in the car, it is important to always obey the rules of the road and adopt safe driving practices. In order to minimize the risk of a car crash, drivers should:
- Avoid texting or talking on the phone while driving.
- Drive within posted speed limits (or slower if driving conditions are comprised).
- Use turn signals.
- Keep a safe distance between their car and the car in front of them. If you are being tailgated, move to a different lane, if possible.
The question of liability is a complex and complicated issue, with several nuances. Moreover, tort laws – including liability, statutes of limitations, and damages – vary from state to state. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following an auto accident. The Chicago auto accident lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish are dedicated to helping the victims of car accidents obtain maximum financial recovery for their injuries, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and disability. We will advise you of your legal rights and guide you through the entire claim process. If you have been involved in an auto accident or would like to learn more about car crash risks, contact Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish at (312) 445-9084 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Chicago car accident lawyers. Steinberg Goodman & Kalish (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families. We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 or (312) 445-9084.