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Bus Accident $5,000,000.00

A 12-year-old student who was traveling by New York City Transit ...

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Construction Site Accident $2,000,000.00

A laborer who was involved in demolition of a large building ...

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Elevator Drop $1,400,000.00

Elevator drop accident in a Queens hospital causing neck injury ...

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School Bus Accident $1,400,000.00

School bus accident in the Bronx as the result of speeding, causing ...

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Personal Injury Newsletter

Drivers & Their Duty to Passengers

If you are injured in a traffic collision while riding as a passenger in a vehicle, you may want to know about the driver’s liability toward you. The driver does have a duty to act responsibly toward you, but the extent of that duty depends on what kind of passenger you are.

The Non-Paying Passenger

The free rider, also known as the gratuitous guest, is typically not paying the driver to be transported. In most jurisdictions, the driver’s duty to a non-paying passenger is that of reasonable care. As long as the driver isn’t foolishly reckless or intentionally driving dangerously, he or she is relatively free from liability.

The Paying Passenger

The duty of the driver is somewhat heightened, however, when the passenger is a paying customer conferring a benefit (money) to the driver. Providing companionship to the driver is not enough benefit for a higher standard of care to be attributed. Neither is a contribution for gasoline expenses. For actual paying passengers, if the driver is negligent in any way, he or she will be held liable for damages.

What if the Passenger Isn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

The driver may claim that the passenger was injured because he or she failed to wear a seat belt. However, the courts normally reject this defense, since it is the driver who caused the collision, not the seatbelt, or lack thereof.

Other Types of Passengers

There are a few unique driver/passenger situations that should be noted.


  • When owners are passengers in their own vehicles, they are not transformed to guest status. Essentially, owners are still paying for the transportation, whether they are driving or not.

  • Family members and minors are generally treated as guests, but it usually depends on the circumstances. Children who cannot think for themselves yet (such as babies) are not treated as guests.

  • Intoxicated passengers are still treated as guests unless the applicable law in the jurisdiction requires them to be able to make a conscious decision to ride.

  • Limitations on Intra-Family Lawsuits
    Over the years, intra-family immunity from lawsuits against other family members developed; “parental immunity” and “spousal immunity.” Some have suggested that these immunities were part of a body of rules that... Read more.
  • Damages Recoverable for Injuries Affecting Quality of Life
    Relatively recently, courts have begun awarding damages in certain cases for “loss of enjoyment of life,” also called “hedonic damages,” named for the ancient Greek school of philosophy called... Read more.
  • Providing Notice for Medical Liens
    A person injured in an accident caused by the negligence or fault of another may eventually be able to recover damages from the person at fault. However, accident injuries usually require immediate treatment. If the injured party lacks... Read more.
  • Medicare: Right to Reimbursement in Personal Injury Cases
    Medicare, established in 1965, is a federal health care plan for those 65 and older, in addition to certain persons under 65 (e.g., the disabled). In the event a Medicare recipient is injured through the fault of another, he or she may... Read more.
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