Can Passengers Be Liable for Causing a Car Crash?

Teens in Car Distracted by CellphoneDrivers typically carry the responsibility for controlling their vehicle and complying with traffic laws. If a driver causes an accident, and others get hurt, he or she may be responsible for any damages. Passengers, on the other hand, typically have no liability for a car crash. However, what if a passenger’s negligent, careless or reckless behavior causes you to have a collision? Could you hold that person liable for damages?

Greg Coleman Law discusses more about passenger behavior and what actions may make them partially or even fully responsible for a car accident.

Proving passenger negligence is challenging, and your claim may significantly benefit from the experience of a qualified lawyer. Our Knoxville-based attorneys have years of experience and a proven history, recovering millions in compensation for our clients. Learn more in a completely free consultation.

Passenger Behavior That May Cause a Car Crash

Any time you have one or more passengers in your car, there is the possibility their behavior could distract you. Regardless of their behavior, if you are behind the wheel, you still have a reasonable duty of care to prevent harm to your passengers and to others on the road. As part of your duty of care, it is unwise to allow people in your vehicle that are known to engage in risky or reckless behavior.

That said, you may not always be able to foresee when a passenger may endanger you or others with their behavior while you are driving. In those circumstances, a passenger’s reckless actions may be beyond your control or ability to prevent an accident.

Here are some examples of when a passenger may be found at-fault for an accident:

  • Grabbing the steering wheel, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle
  • Placing their hands over the eyes of the driver
  • Shoving a large map or object in front of the driver’s face and blocking their view of the road
  • Engaging in dangerous and distracting behavior, such as yelling out of the window or throwing things out of the car
  • Encouraging a driver to get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Purposely frightening or startling the driver with loud noises or sudden, intrusive actions
  • Spilling hot liquid on the driver
  • Assaulting another passenger in the car
  • Attempting to jump out of a car while it is moving

Do Passengers Owe Others a Duty of Care?

We all owe a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent hurting or causing harm to others – or to ourselves.


  • Following all traffic laws
  • Not driving distracted or impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Properly maintaining your car
  • Staying alert for other reckless drivers


People rarely talk about the duty of care a passenger owes when riding in someone else’s car. A passenger’s duty is to not engage in behavior that could cause a driver to be distracted or lose control of his or her vehicle.

Passengers may be at-fault for a crash if they violate their duty of care – such as if they grabbed the steering wheel or pressed the gas pedal and caused an accident. In that situation, the passenger effectively assumes the role of driver and may then be held liable for all damages resulting from any accident they cause.

It is best to use good judgement before allowing anyone to ride in your car. Newer drivers who have less experience may be especially at risk for this type of situation. Although, under the right circumstances, it could happen to anyone.

These cases are difficult to prove, but our attorneys are well-versed in Tennessee state laws, and we may be able to help. You can call our firm anytime, day or night, to schedule your free case review. There is no obligation to pursue a claim.

Proving Negligence

Proving passenger fault for a car crash can be challenging. As with any motor vehicle accident, your attorney will need to establish the passenger's negligence caused or contributed to the accident by proving that individual:

  • Owed you a duty of care
  • Breached, or violated, that duty
  • Directly caused you, by their actions, to be involved and injured in an accident
  • Caused you to suffer damages, such as medical costs to treat your injuries

Need Legal Help? Call Greg Coleman Law Today

We recommend that you consider hiring an attorney after a car crash in Tennessee. Our team of legal professionals handle challenging car accident cases every day. We have a strong history of recovering millions in compensation for our clients.

Contact our law offices today to schedule a completely free consultation with one of our knowledgeable lawyers. There is no obligation to pursue a claim, and we are prepared to answer your questions and discuss your potential legal options.

No upfront costs while we work on your case. (865) 247-0080