Can Passengers Sue for Car Accident Injuries in Texas?

Reviewed by Louis Patino, JD, DC

Louis Patino, JD, DC
A former U.S. Army Combat Medic, Dr. Louis Patino is a distinguished attorney recognised by Top Attorneys of America, Expertise, and the American Institute of Trial Lawyers. He has a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Southern University and a Doctor of Chiropractic from Parker College of Chiropractic.

Image of a passenger in a vehicle to illustrate a passenger in a car accident

We often hear about drivers being hurt in accidents and securing justice and rightful compensation, but what if you were injured in a car accident as a passenger? Can a passenger sue? And should you?

In this blog, McAllen and San Antonio car accident lawyer Dr. Louis Patino explains what to do if you’re a passenger in an accident and explores your options for recovering compensation, highlighting several examples of when you might have a claim.

Your Rights as a Passenger in Texas

An accident can occur at any time. Sometimes, drivers are reckless, such as if they get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, or they are intentionally aggressive to others on the road because they’re running late — or simply having a bad day. Other times, accidents happen in the blink of an eye: a parent rear-ends a vehicle because they’re distracted by their child crying in the back seat; a driver swerves to avoid an animal on the road; a motorist causes a pile-up when their brakes suddenly fail.

Auto accidents can happen for many reasons, and several parties can be liable — which we’ll go into shortly — and even the best motorist can’t always avoid a crash. But drivers are — for the most part — in control of their actions.

As a passenger, you have no control over what happens on the road. You trust the person driving the vehicle and the motorists around you to stay safe. When you’re hurt in a car accident as a passenger, you should be entitled to recover fair compensation for your injuries and the physical, emotional, and financial impact of the accident on your life.

Who Is Liable for Passenger Injuries?

Many people or parties can be at fault for an accident, and they need not even be at the scene when the accident happened. Here are some common examples of who might be responsible and why:

  • The driver of another vehicle who was speeding, intoxicated, or distracted.
  • The driver of the car you were in, such as a friend texting while you’re on the road, a carpool driver eating and drinking while taking you to work, or an Uber or Lyft driver tailgating another car on the way to your destination.
  • An employer of a driver who crashes on the job, such as if they failed to provide adequate training or check a driver was qualified, or encouraged an employee to drive while fatigued.
  • A manufacturer that negligently manufactures a car part.
  • A mechanic who fails to diagnose or fix a fault.

Car accidents can be a simple case of one driver slamming into another, but it isn’t always so clear-cut.

Multiple parties may share liability, each partially responsible for your passenger injuries.

Recovering Compensation When You’re Injured in a Car Accident as a Passenger

Passenger injuries sustained in Texas car accidents can vary in severity. Some of the most common injuries passengers suffer are:

  • Whiplash and other neck and back injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Internal trauma
  • Soft tissue injuries (sprains and strains)
  • Lacerations (cuts)
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including concussion and hematomas.

But injuries are not just physical, and many passengers in car accidents sustain additional losses, including:

  • Being unable to work (and losing wages as a result).
  • Reduced independence from needing to rely on others for support.
  • Being physically unable to do specific tasks, from daily errands like grocery shopping to hobbies such as gardening or activities that bring them joy — for example, playing with their children or grandchildren.
  • Struggling to afford medical treatment, from medication to surgery and long-term rehabilitation.
  • Anxiety around getting back behind the wheel.
  • Fear when in situations unrelated to driving, especially when they are not in control.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), causing insomnia, traumatic flashbacks of the crash, and emotional outbursts.

These harms occur directly from the accident and can be just as devastating — if not more so — than physical injuries. A passenger hurt in an accident — and, by extension, their family — might face the financial consequences of the crash years after the physical injuries have healed. For example, they might have to sell their home, take out credit cards or loans that impact their credit score, or work a second job.

Then, there’s the emotional fallout. An accident victim who took out a loan to get the surgery and rehabilitation they needed might later take a second job to afford their monthly repayments. As they are rarely at home, their relationship with their spouse deteriorates, and their young children are upset because they seldom see their parent. When they are home, they are so exhausted that they become irritable and snap at their loved ones.

One moment — a moment they had no control over and played no part in — can be life-changing. Fortunately, Texas law allows injured passengers in a car accident caused by negligence to recover compensation for their injuries.

You are entitled to recover all the losses we’ve mentioned — your medical bills, lost wages, and additional compensation (called non-economic damages) for the accident’s impact on your life, such as your pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and emotional anguish.

The first step is to identify who might be liable for the accident so you can begin building your case.

Book a free, no-obligation case review with McAllen and San Antonio accident attorney Dr. Louis Patino to find out if you’re entitled to compensation for your passenger injuries. We’re available 24/7 and you only pay fees when we win.

A Word on Claiming Compensation from a Driver You Know

When you’re injured in an accident as a passenger and the person driving is a close friend or family member, you might face a moral dilemma: should you claim compensation?

It’s entirely understandable that you might stress about whether it’s the right thing to do — you might not want to risk souring a relationship with someone you’ve potentially known for years or decades, or perhaps all your life — especially if they were also hurt in the crash and are contending with considerable pain.

But you will only consider claiming against a driver if they partly or wholly caused the accident, and it is your right to do so. Additionally, you are not taking money from your friend or loved one’s pocket per se, as you will seek compensation from their auto insurance provider.

Insurance policies exist to protect us. When our vehicles are damaged through no fault of our own, or we get hurt in a road accident as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, we can recover our losses from the liable person’s insurer. Likewise, if we are responsible for an accident and someone else is hurt, they can be compensated via our insurer. This arrangement removes the burden of suddenly finding tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay an injury victim what their losses are worth.

Can a Passenger Be Responsible for a Car Accident in Texas?

In most crashes, passengers are innocent victims who have no control and are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But there are scenarios where a passenger might be found partly liable for a crash.

All people owe a duty of care to one another, whether they’re operating a vehicle, in the passenger seat, or crossing the road as a pedestrian. This duty of care binds individuals to act reasonably and safely. As such, several acts by a passenger could violate this duty of care:

  • Distracting the driver by shouting or pointing at the driver.
  • Operating the vehicle, such as grabbing the steering wheel, changing gears, or messing with the clutch.
  • Inciting violence or acting aggressively toward other drivers; for example, threatening, taunting, or swearing at motorists.
  • Encouraging the driver to speed, run a red light, make an unsafe lane change, or refuse to yield the right of way to another vehicle.

If a passenger engages in these or similar acts, they might share liability for the accident. For example, if you give another driver the middle finger and egg them on, daring them to come at you, and they steer their vehicle into you and run you off the road, they might be financially responsible for any injuries you suffer. However, they will likely argue they would not have run you off the road unless you threatened them and that they feared for their safety. Texas adopts modified comparative negligence rules, which allow any individual to pursue compensation as long as they are not more than 50% at fault. Providing your percentage of fault lies below this cap — which is determined by a jury — you can recover compensation, albeit a reduced amount in line with your liability.

Third-Party vs First-Party Claims

If you suffer passenger injuries due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, the logical step is to file a third-party liability claim. But if you drive a vehicle, you can make a first-party claim (claiming with your insurance company).

Making a first-party claim may affect your premiums and does not necessarily mean the process will be easier; insurance providers are in the business of making money, not giving it away, and they may challenge your eligibility to claim. Still, it is an option if you cannot or do not want to make a third-party claim, such as if the driver who caused your crash does not have a valid insurance policy.

What If You’re an Injured Passenger and the Driver Is Uninsured?

A driver might be uninsured for many reasons. They may have forgotten their renewal date or a change in their financial circumstances — such as losing their job — might mean they can no longer afford their policy. Others might know they shouldn’t be driving but do so anyway because they don’t anticipate getting caught after a crash. In any case, recovering compensation when the person responsible is uninsured can make the process more complicated.

You can sue the driver directly, but this is not always the most viable strategy if their reason for being uninsured is financial, as it’s unlikely they will have the resources to compensate you. You can also work with a Texas car accident attorney to determine if another party — such as another driver, an employer, or a manufacturer — might share fault.

Your other option is to claim against your insurance policy. It’s particularly worth checking to see if your policy includes uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage, which will top up or cover your damages if a driver is uninsured or your losses exceed their policy limit. You might also have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This coverage is typically included unless you explicitly opted out when taking out your policy. It can cover your medical bills and a significant portion (up to 80%) of your lost income due to being unable to work.

Related Reading: What to Do When You’re in a Car Accident With an Uninsured Driver

What to Do If You’re a Passenger in an Accident

If you are injured as a passenger in a car accident, your actions immediately following the incident can significantly impact your ability to claim compensation.

Aim to take as many of the following steps as possible:

Do Not Wait

You might be tempted to hold off on taking legal action after your accident, especially if you are severely hurt or you are close to the person who was driving and you are debating what to do. The Texas statute of limitations on personal injury claims is two years from your accident. During this time, you must identify the potentially liable parties, gather evidence proving their fault, and attempt to negotiate a settlement to resolve your claim out of court. You can sue the responsible person or party if you cannot agree on a fair settlement, but you must do so before the two-year time limit expires. Additionally, some of the most valuable evidence and facts for your claim can be gathered or documented immediately after your crash, and you risk losing vital evidence that could make a massive difference to the compensation you recover.

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

It is vital to prioritize your health after sustaining an injury in a car accident. You should seek medical treatment even if you think you are not hurt or that your injuries are minor. Adrenaline can mask the severity of your pain, and if you wait to see a doctor, the responsible party’s insurance provider may argue your injuries are not as bad as you are claiming or deny liability entirely by disputing whether you sustained your injuries in the crash.

Your medical records are valuable evidence of the long-term impact of your injuries, which you are entitled to recover the costs of as part of your claim.

Document the Scene

Take detailed photos and videos of the accident scene if you are able and it is safe. Document where vehicles are and how badly they are damaged, your injuries, and the environment, such as the weather, any hazards, and skid marks on the road. Such evidence can support an accident reconstructionist to determine how the accident happened and who is responsible or support the argument that a driver was negligent by driving unsafely in dangerous weather conditions.

Collect Contact and Insurance Information

Gather the names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance details of all drivers involved and the contact information of anyone who witnessed the crash. Their statements can support your claim if the at-fault party tells a different version of events.

File a Police Report

Any individual injured in an accident is bound to report the accident to the police immediately. During the investigation, the attending officer will file a crash report detailing who was involved in the accident, the injuries and damage they sustained, and the contributing factors to the crash. Your accident report is vital evidence for your claim. Our San Antonio and McAllen personal injury lawyer can request an authorized copy of your crash report, explain it to you, and verify that the information is correct.

Keep Medical Records and Receipts

You can recover your incurred losses, but you must prove they exist. You should hold on to your bills, receipts, invoices, and quotes for all crash-related expenses and ensure you have wage slips proving your income. Do not worry about collecting too much or whether or not a receipt is relevant. If in doubt, hold on to it — your personal injury lawyer can determine what evidence best supports your case.

Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer

Legal guidance can make the difference between settling for less than you’re worth — or even having your claim denied — and getting a life-changing sum that fairly compensates you for all the pain you’ve suffered (and may continue to suffer) as a result of your accident. We will handle all communications with insurance adjusters so they cannot trick you into making a statement they can twist and use against you. We will also negotiate a fair settlement, build your case, and fiercely advocate for you in court if you decide to go to trial. Our personal injury lawyer is dedicated to making the process as comfortable and stress-free as possible so you can focus on your recovery.

If you were injured as a passenger in a car accident, you deserve justice and compensation — you do not have to bear the financial burden of someone else’s negligence. Call 855-LAW-NINJA today to book a free, no-obligation case review with our accident attorney in McAllen and San Antonio and see where you stand. You don’t pay fees until we win.

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