Go to navigation Go to content
Phone: (312) 263-1080
The Law Offices of Barry G. Doyle, P.C.

Can A Passenger Cause an Auto Accident?

Barry G. Doyle
Illinois accident lawyer and Chicago nursing home lawyer providing FREE information to help those in need.

The vast majority of Illinois auto accidents are caused by drivers. This is usually obvious in a single-vehicle accident. In multi-vehicle collisions, one or more drivers are usually at fault. In a few cases, a pedestrian may be responsible for causing a crash; and rarer still are the instances when a municipality or private business is liable for injuries or deaths (for instance, when road construction plays a part in the root cause of an accident).

Here's a question:
can a passenger be blamed for an accident and the resulting consequences?

It is possible for this to be the case - though it is usually difficult to prove. After all, Illinois law states that a driver is responsible for the safety of his or her passengers. Therefore, a passenger would have to commit a willfully reckless or negligent act that has a direct bearing on the catalyst for an accident in order to be held liable for any deaths or injuries.
A few scenarios where a passenger car accident could be caused if the passenger were to:

  • suddenly and inexplicably grab the steering wheel, gearshift, or any other driver control mechanism
  • open a vehicle's door in traffic while the vehicle is still moving
  • dangle or jump out of the vehicle's open window or sunroof

Many times passengers intentionally or unintentionally distract the driver of a vehicle, which leads to an accident. However, most of these instances would not be enough to assign liability to the passenger instead of or in addition to the driver. So if a passenger were to:

  • yell or shout
  • cry loudly (i.e., a baby)
  • spill a beverage inside the vehicle
  • change the radio station
  • assault another passenger

the driver would still probably be blamed if a motor vehicle collision were to occur.

You may be asking:
what should I do if I am driving and one of my passengers begins distracting me to the point where I feel like I may cause a crash?

Because the driver has the ultimate responsibility for the safety of his or her passengers, any unacceptable distraction must be eliminated. If your passenger does not heed your demands to cease the dangerous behavior or actions, then you should pull off of the road (safely) and stop the vehicle. Then you can either wait until the offending behavior is no longer an issue, or tell the passenger to leave the vehicle. These actions may sound extreme, but when safety is the top priority, they are justifiable and necessary.
A qualified auto accident attorney can answer any questions you might have about the atypical situations where a passenger might be at fault in a motor vehicle collision.