According to a report from KCRA 3 NBC, one person was injured and hospitalized after a single-vehicle drunk driving crash in Stockton. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) responded to the scene of the accident just after 1:00 AM, near the notoriously busy intersection of Interstate 5 and Eight Mile Road. The injured victim—a woman in the front passenger’s seat—was ejected from the vehicle. CHP reports that a child was also in the car but was thankfully not harmed in the crash.
The driver of the vehicle was arrested and charged with a DUI. Intoxicated driving is dangerous driving. It puts everyone on or near the road in harm’s way, including pedestrians, other motorists, and the passengers of the vehicle. Passengers injured in a drunk driving crash require immediate medical attention. They may also have a legal claim. In this article, our Stockton auto accident lawyer provides an overview of passenger DUI accident injury claims in California.
California Law: All Motorists Owe a Duty of Care to their Passengers
Under California law, everyone is required to exercise a reasonable duty of care when operating a motor vehicle. Drivers must operate their vehicle with at least as much skill and caution that a reasonably prudent driver would use under similar circumstances. Failure to do so is negligence. Intoxicated driving is one of the most dangerous forms of negligence. Drunk drivers face both criminal and civil legal liability for crashes.
Notably, motorists owe a duty of care to everyone else on or near the road, including to their own passengers. If a passenger is seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by the negligence of a driver, they have a legal right to file a personal injury claim against the driver and the driver’s insurance company. When you get into a car with another person, you should be able to rely on them to act in a reasonable, safe, and prudent manner.
A Passenger May Be Partially Liable on the Grounds of Comparative Negligence
As a general rule, passengers are not liable for motor vehicle collisions in California. However, DUI accident claims can sometimes prove to be an exception. If a passenger’s careless conduct or reckless conduct contributes to an accident, then that passenger may be partially responsible for the resulting damages. For example, a passenger may bear partial fault for a motor vehicle crash if any of the following three scenarios apply:
- The passenger carelessly or recklessly distracted the driver;
- The passenger encouraged drunk driving; or
- The passenger otherwise interfered with the driver’s ability to operate safety.
California is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. A passenger of a DUI accident could potentially be held legally liable for part of their own accident. For instance, imagine that a person was injured as a passenger in a one-car DUI crash in San Joaquin County. An investigation reveals that they were drinking alcohol at a bar with the at-fault driver. A witness provides a statement indicating that the passenger not only knew about but encouraged drunk driving. This would constitute negligence.
Complicated Cases: Injured DUI Accident Passengers Need Legal Representation
DUI accident passenger injury claims are notoriously complex. A person seriously injured as a passenger in a drunk driving crash needs professional legal representation. An experienced Stockton auto accident lawyer can help victims navigate the claims process. Ultimately, their ability to recover compensation for their injuries will depend on a wide range of factors, including:
- What they knew (and did not know) about the driver’s condition;
- Whether they encouraged the intoxicated person to drive; and
- Their conduct while they were in the vehicle.
It is important to emphasize that a person injured as a passenger in a DUI accident is not ineligible to bring a personal injury claim in California. In many cases, passengers are not aware of the driver’s intoxication. A driver may misrepresent their state or it may otherwise not be reasonably apparent to the passenger when they entered the vehicle.
Contact Our Stockton, CA Car Accident Attorney for Immediate Help
At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton motor vehicle accident lawyers have the professional skills and legal expertise to represent DUI accident victims. If you have any questions or concerns about the drunk driving accident injury claims process, we are more than ready to help. Call us now or reach out to us through our confidential contact form to set up your free consultation. From our office in Stockton, we handle DUI accident injury claims in San Joaquin County and beyond.