Is an Injured Passenger Entitled to Compensation in Ohio?

Doug Mann

Table of Contents
  1. Ohio Car Crash Liability
  2. Who is Liable to an Injured Passenger in Ohio?
  3. Special Cases Involving Injured Passengers
  4. Are Passengers Ever Responsible for Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries? 
  5. Help for Injured Ohio Passengers

Most discussion of liability for automobile crash injuries revolves around the drivers, one or both of whom is usually responsible–at least in part–for the collision. You probably assume that injured passengers are entitled to similar compensation, and that’s generally true. But, who is responsible for compensating an injured passenger? What types of insurance coverage may be available when you’re the passenger and not the insured driver of the vehicle? And what happens if you’re riding with the responsible driver?

Ohio Car Crash Liability

Most car accident cases are negligence claims. Under Ohio law, a person or entity (like a business) is responsible for injuries to another person if: 

  • They had some duty of care to the injured person
  • They didn’t live up to that duty
  • Their failure to live up to that duty caused an incident, and
  • The incident caused injury to the plaintiff

In Ohio, drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws and exercise care for the safety of others on and around the road. If they breach that duty–for instance, by speeding or texting while driving–and hurt someone in the process, they’re typically responsible for damages.

In some circumstances, other parties may be responsible, or may share responsibility. Some examples include: 

  • The manufacturer or seller of a vehicle or vehicle part, if that part or product was defective and the defect caused or contributed to the collision
  • A governmental entity responsible for road maintenance if they failed to clear away debris, repair potholes, or otherwise maintain the road in safe condition

The best source of information about who may be responsible for injuries suffered in a particular motor vehicle accident is an experienced Ohio car accident lawyer. 

Who is Liable to an Injured Passenger in Ohio?

In most cases, the possible responsible parties and the person or entity liable to the injured passenger will be the same as they would if the passenger had been another driver, a pedestrian, or some other person injured in the crash. The most common examples are the driver of the other vehicle and the driver of the vehicle the passenger is riding in.

Liability of the Driver of the Other Vehicle

A passenger who is injured when the driver of another car runs a red light and hits the vehicle they’re riding in or sideswipes the car they’re in on the highway will typically have a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. The injured passenger in this situation often has one advantage compared with a driver bringing a claim against another driver: the responsible driver will rarely be able to argue that the injured passenger was partly responsible for their own injuries. That means contributory negligence is less likely to play a role, and less likely to reduce the compensation available.

If the driver is working at the time of the collision, the employer may bear responsibility for damages. This typically means that there may be more insurance coverage available to fully compensate the injured passenger. 

Liability of the Driver the Injured Passenger Was Riding With

In most situations, the legal rights of the passenger of a negligent driver are the same as they would be if the responsible driver had been in another vehicle. Often, though, the injured passenger will be hesitant about pursuing a claim when the responsible party is a friend or family member. It’s important to remember that most car accident claims are paid by insurance companies, not drivers. 

The driver has paid for automobile insurance specifically to make sure that if they injure someone or destroy someone else’s property, the injured person has access to fair compensation. 

Third Party Liability to Injured Passengers

The additional possible responsible parties in a motor vehicle case, such as manufacturers of defective products and those who fail to maintain roads in safe conditions may also be responsible to an injured passenger, just as they would to a driver who was injured under the same circumstances. 

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Special Cases Involving Injured Passengers

There are a few situations in which liability to injured passengers differs from the norm. One common example is when a passenger is injured during a rideshare trip. Another is when the passenger is traveling with a co-worker in the course of employment.

Injured Rideshare Passengers

Because drivers for companies like Uber are typically independent contractors, rideshare companies generally deny responsibility for rideshare accidents. However, Uber does provide up to $1 million in liability insurance. You can learn more about liability in rideshare accidents in our previous post, “Uber Crashes: What is the Law?” 

Passengers Injured on the Job

In Ohio, workers’ compensation is generally an exclusive remedy–at least as to the employer. That means an injured worker typically can’t sue the employer for injuries sustained on the job. Instead, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits such as replacement income and medical care. 

However, it’s important to note that there may be third parties who are wholly or partly responsible for the crash, and injured workers may be able to pursue personal injury claims against third parties. Since the damages available in a personal injury case are much more extensive, a worker in this position should talk to an attorney right away. The best lawyer for this situation will be one who is familiar with both Ohio workers’ compensation law and personal injury claims. 

Are Passengers Ever Responsible for Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries? 

This is really two separate questions. First, are passengers ever liable for injuries to others (either in the vehicle with them or outside the vehicle)? Second, are passengers ever deemed responsible for their own injuries. 

Passenger Liability to Other Injured Parties

It is very rare that a passenger in a vehicle would be found negligent in a way that made them responsible for injuries to others in the vehicle, injury victims in another vehicle their car collided with, or someone outside the vehicle such as a pedestrian or bicyclist. But, it’s not impossible. 

Imagine for example, that the passenger in a vehicle decided it would be funny to suddenly throw a water balloon at the driver of the vehicle they were riding in. The balloon broke, splashing water in the driver’s face. The driver was both started and momentarily blinded and swerved the vehicle into another car. Although the passenger wasn’t in control of the vehicle at the time of the collision, their negligent actions substantially contributed to the incident and at least partially caused any resulting injuries. 

Passenger Responsibility for Their Own Injuries

The scenario described above is the most obvious one in which a passenger might be found wholly or partly responsible for their own injuries. Generally, an injured person who is partly responsible can still recover compensation. But, that compensation is reduced in proportion to their own responsibility. And, under Ohio law, they aren’t eligible for compensation at all if they’re more than half responsible. 

A more nuanced example might involve a passenger who knowingly decided to get in the car with a drunk driver. Though the driver’s negligence caused the collision, the passenger may be found partly responsible for having taken the risk of negligently getting in the car with someone who was under the influence of alcohol. 

There are also limited circumstances in which the passenger’s choices may limit their ability to collect compensation. For example, in Ohio, auto insurance policies typically exclude coverage for anyone involved in street racing, which could include the passenger of a street racer if they knowingly went along for the race or egged on the driver.

Help for Injured Ohio Passengers

At Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz, we have extensive experience representing victims of automobile accidents, and also knowledge of potentially-related areas of law such as workers’ compensation and product liability. This broad-based knowledge and experience helps ensure that you identify all possible responsible parties and can pursue the maximum compensation available. 

To schedule a free consultation, call 937-222-2222 or fill out the contact form on this page.

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