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Can a Passenger Sue if They are Injured in a Car Wreck?

Can a Passenger Sue if They are Injured in a Car Wreck?
Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

The passengers in a vehicle that is involved in a car or motorcycle crash are often injured as well as the driver, but who pays their compensation?

The rules of negligence are the same whether it is the driver or passenger who sues – the person or entity responsible for the crash is liable to anyone who is injured for the full amount of their damages. The driver and passengers can sue other vehicles’ drivers when they are at fault, and the passengers can sue their own driver when he or she is at fault.

In this article, we will discuss when and how a passenger can sue when they are injured in a car crash, including:

  • Who the passenger can sue when another vehicle’s driver is at fault,
  • Who the passenger can sue when their own driver is at fault, and
  • When a motorcycle passenger can sue after a motorcycle crash.

Who Does the Passenger Sue if They Are Injured in an Auto Accident?

Who does the passenger sue after a car crash?

Under the rules of negligence (see, Trivelas v. SCDOT), the plaintiff (the passenger, in this case) must prove three elements to establish liability:

  1. The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff (for example, to follow the traffic laws),
  2. The defendant breached their duty of care to the plaintiff (for example, by failing to follow the traffic laws), and
  3. The plaintiff’s damages were proximately caused by the defendant’s breach of their duty (but for the defendant’s failure to follow the traffic laws, the crash and injuries would not have happened).

Who Does the Passenger Sue When Another Vehicle’s Driver Is at Fault?

The passenger in a car wreck can sue any person or entity who was responsible for the crash, recover from multiple defendants, and “stack” insurance policies when necessary to get full and fair compensation for their injuries.

Possible defendants could include:

  • The driver of one or more other vehicles that caused the crash,
  • A business owner or property owner who created a road hazard that contributed to the crash,
  • The driver of your vehicle,
  • A municipality that was on notice of a road hazard that caused the crash,
  • Your own uninsured or underinsured policies, or
  • Any person, business, or municipality whose negligence contributed to causing the crash.

Who Does the Passenger Sue When Their Driver Is at Fault?

If the driver of your vehicle was at fault in the crash, you may have a claim against them just as the drivers or passengers of other vehicles may have a claim against them.

South Carolina’s comparative negligence rule (if you are more than 50% at fault in a crash you cannot recover damages) applies to your driver if they contributed to the cause of the crash, but, in most cases, it does not apply to passengers (assuming the driver was at fault and not you).

What if the At-Fault Driver is Family or a Friend?

Do we really expect you to sue your wife, husband, brother, sister, or best friend who was driving the car when it crashed?


They will understand that you are not attacking them – you are making a claim against their insurance, which is the reason they purchased the insurance and have been paying premiums to the insurance company for most of their life.

In some cases, when a defendant’s insurance policies do not cover the full amount of damages, we may go after a defendant’s personal assets. That is your decision, however, and we do not expect that you will choose to go after your family member or friend’s personal assets.

Can a Motorcycle Passenger Sue After a Motorcycle Crash?

The rules of negligence are the same for motorcycle riders as they are for other vehicles’ drivers and passengers.

If another person or entity contributed to the cause of the crash, you may have a claim against them, including other drivers, businesses, municipalities, or anyone who negligently caused the crash.

As with cars or other vehicles, if you are a passenger on a motorcycle and the driver causes a crash, they are liable to you for the damage they caused, and you may be able to stack insurance policies including your own uninsured or underinsured policies when necessary to recover full and fair compensation.

What if You Were Not Wearing a Helmet?

Motorcycle riders 21 years of age and older are not required to wear a helmet in South Carolina (SC Code Section 56-5-3660).

If you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, that cannot be considered as comparative negligence or assumption of the risk (see, Mayes v. Paxton). The insurance defense lawyers cannot argue comparative negligence or assumption of the risk at trial, and the fact that you were not wearing a helmet is not admissible in court.

Got Axelrod?

If you are a passenger who was injured in an auto or motorcycle accident in South Carolina, your Myrtle Beach car crash attorneys at Axelrod and Associates will investigate your crash, help you determine who is liable, and identify all possible sources of recovery.

Schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer on the Axelrod team today. Call us at 843-353-3449 or fill out our contact form to set up a free initial consultation about your case.

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