Close Menu

Personal Injury Newsletter

Driver's Responsibility Toward Passengers

If you are injured in a traffic collision while riding as a passenger in a vehicle, you may want to know about the driver’s liability toward you. The driver does have a duty to act responsibly toward you, but the extent of that duty depends on what kind of passenger you are.

The Non-Paying Passenger

The free rider, also known as the gratuitous guest, is typically not paying the driver to be transported. In most jurisdictions, the driver’s duty to a non-paying passenger is that of reasonable care. As long as the driver isn’t foolishly reckless or intentionally driving dangerously, he or she is relatively free from liability.

The Paying Passenger

The duty of the driver is somewhat heightened, however, when the passenger is a paying customer conferring a benefit (money) to the driver. Providing companionship to the driver is not enough benefit for a higher standard of care to be attributed. Neither is a contribution for gasoline expenses. For actual paying passengers, if the driver is negligent in any way, he or she will be held liable for damages.

What if the Passenger Isn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

The driver may claim that the passenger was injured because he or she failed to wear a seat belt. However, the courts normally reject this defense, since it is the driver who caused the collision, not the seatbelt, or lack thereof.

Other Types of Passengers

There are a few unique driver/passenger situations that should be noted.


  • When owners are passengers in their own vehicles, they are not transformed to guest status. Essentially, owners are still paying for the transportation, whether they are driving or not.

  • Family members and minors are generally treated as guests, but it usually depends on the circumstances. Children who cannot think for themselves yet (such as babies) are not treated as guests.

  • Intoxicated passengers are still treated as guests unless the applicable law in the jurisdiction requires them to be able to make a conscious decision to ride.

  • When is a Class Action Lawsuit Available?
    A class action suit is a claim brought by one or more individuals on behalf of themselves and others with similar claims. There are several types of cases appropriate for a class action lawsuit including: A mass accident... Read more.
  • Car Safety and Crashworthiness: Manufacturer's Duties
    The principles of product liability provide consumers with some protection against injury from defective products and a means of recovering damages for injuries resulting from the use of defective products. The protection is in general... Read more.
  • Medicare "Liens" in Personal Injury Lawsuits
    Medicare, established in 1965, is a federal health care plan for those 65 and older, in addition to certain persons under 65 (e.g., the disabled). In the event a Medicare recipient is injured through the fault of another, he or she may... Read more.
  • Tax Effects of Personal Injury Award Allocations
    The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) takes a broad view of what is considered “income” for purposes of taxation. The U.S. Supreme Court has provided additional interpretation, stating that “any funds”... Read more.
Personal Injury News Links
Share This Page:
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn