Passengers face the same risks as drivers on Florida’s roads. According to 2019 data from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), more than 40 percent of all auto accidents in Florida result in injuries; and, of these, nearly two-thirds result in injuries to multiple victims. Importantly, however, passengers also have the same rights as drivers in Florida, and this means that they can recover just compensation with the help of an experienced Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyer.
Even so, passenger injury claims present some unique issues. In some cases, passengers may need to seek compensation from their own drivers, and in some cases the insurance companies will try to blame passengers for their own injuries. This comprehensive guide to passenger safety explains what you need to know if you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a passenger in Florida.
How Passengers Can Be at Risk for Serious Injury in Auto Accidents
First, let’s talk about the injury risks for passengers. Passengers of all ages can suffer serious injuries in auto accidents, and passengers in the front and back seats are equally at risk – a fact any Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyer can confirm.
Adult Passenger Injuries in Auto Accidents
Adult passengers in cars, trucks, SUVs and vans can suffer serious injuries due to a variety of different factors. This includes factors such as:
- Not Wearing a Seatbelt – In Florida, adult passengers riding in the front seat are required to wear seatbelts, but rear-seat passengers are not. However, wearing a seatbelt in the back seat is still a good idea, as it can help prevent a number of types of serious (and potentially fatal) injuries.
- Wearing a Defective Seatbelt – Wearing a defective seatbelt can be just as dangerous as wearing no seatbelt at all. If you were riding in a vehicle as a passenger and your seatbelt malfunctioned, then the vehicle’s manufacturer may be liable for your accident-related losses.
- Sitting Too Close to the Dashboard – Sitting too close to the dashboard in the front seat can also be dangerous. It can increase your risk for various types of injuries, and it can also potentially prevent your airbag from fully deploying.
- Airbag Defects (and Other Vehicle Defects) – Just as seatbelts can be defective, so can airbags. Airbags that fail to deploy, that explode upon vehicle impact, and that have other failures can (and do) cause serious and fatal injuries.
- Trauma Resulting from Serious Collisions – Of course, even if a passenger is seated safely and the vehicle in which he or she is riding is not defective, there is still a very significant risk of suffering severe traumatic injuries in the event of a collision. Most often (though not always), in these scenarios one of the drivers involved in the crash will be liable for the passenger’s injuries.
Child Passenger Injuries in Auto Accidents
Child passengers face many injury risks in serious collisions as well. Young children who are in child seats or booster seats face a number of potential risks that are specific to these safety devices, but all children can suffer traumatic injuries in auto accidents due to a broad range of causes. Common causes of child passenger injuries include:
- Improper Child Seat or Booster Seat Selection – When purchasing a child seat or booster seat, it is important to make sure that the seat you buy is appropriate for your child’s age, height and weight. Parents will need to buy multiple safety seats as their children grow, and putting a child in a seat that is too big or too small can potentially be dangerous.
- Improper Child Seat or Booster Seat Installation – It is also very important for parents to ensure that they install their children’s child seats and booster seats properly. Improper installation is unfortunately a common factor in child passenger injuries, and parents should seek help when necessary.
- Injuries Caused by Child Seats and Booster Seats – Even when sized and installed property, child seats and booster seats can still cause and contribute to children’s injuries in some cases. Defective buckles, inadequate padding and various other issues can all potentially result in unnecessary harm.
- Injuries Caused by Other Factors – Beyond issues with child seats and booster seats, children can suffer injuries in auto accidents due to numerous other factors as well. If your child has been injured in a collision, you should discuss your family’s legal rights with a Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyer promptly.
Rideshare (Uber and Lift) Passenger Injuries in Auto Accidents
Rideshare passengers have clear legal rights under Florida law. Enacted in 2017, Florida’s Uber / Lyft Bill mandates additional insurance companies for rideshare drivers and rideshare companies, and it establishes background check requirements for drivers. Uber, Lyft and other rideshare passengers can seek financial compensation just like passengers of taxis and non-commercial vehicles, and securing a financial recovery is a matter of (i) proving who was at fault, and (ii) proving the amount you are entitled to recover.
How Passengers Can Cause Auto Accidents
Next, let’s talk about how passengers can cause auto accidents. While passengers are at risk for injury, they can also present risks to others if they behave in a reckless or negligent manner. In order to stay safe on the road, passengers should avoid doing things like:
- Distracting the Driver – Driving safely requires concentration, and distractions are among the leading causes of serious and fatal vehicle collisions. This includes distractions caused by passengers.
- Encouraging Reckless Driving – Passengers who encourage drivers to speed, run red lights, and race other drivers can be partially to blame in the event that an accident occurs. This is a particular issue for teen drivers, who may be particularly susceptible to peer pressure.
- Horseplay – Grabbing the steering wheel and other forms of horseplay can lead to dangerous accidents as well. In order to stay safe, passengers should not interfere with drivers’ operation of their vehicles in any way.
Passenger Safety Checklist: Staying Safe on Florida’s Roads
With all of the above risks in mind, passengers riding in cars, trucks, SUVs and vans need to prioritize safety-just as they would if they were behind the wheel. Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyer Gregg Hollander has compiled a checklist of 10 things passengers can do to stay safe on Florida’s roads:
1. Buckle Up
Even if you are sitting in the back seat and you are not legally required to wear a seat belt, buckle up. Seat belts save lives, and there is no good reason not to wear one.
2. Check Your Child’s Safety Seat
Take a moment to check your child’s safety seat. Is it still firmly attached? Are the belt straps an appropriate length for your child? Most child seats and booster seats are made for children of specific heights and weights and not meant to be used long-term.
3. Make Sure You (and Your Child) Have Something to Do
If there is a chance that you will get bored, make sure you have something to do so that you are not susceptible to distracting your driver. Likewise, if your child is likely to become bored, anxious or irritable, make sure you have what you need to keep him or her satisfied during your ride.
4. Decide for Yourself to Act Safely
Make a conscious decision that you will act safely while you are riding in the passenger seat. Remind yourself that you play an important role in getting safely to your destination, and commit to not doing anything that could put you, your driver or anyone else in harm’s way.
5. Do Not Give in to Peer Pressure
If you will be riding with other passengers, do not give in to peer pressure. Be safe, and do not let anyone talk you into doing something that could potentially lead to a collision.
6. Avoid Yelling or Making Sudden Gestures
While you are riding in someone else’s car, avoid yelling or making sudden gestures. If you spot something interesting on the side of the road, tell your driver about it calmly and without raising his or her alarm.
7. Remain Seated Facing Forward
As a passenger, it is important to always remain seated facing forward. Turning around can be dangerous, as you can potentially bump into the driver, and if you are involved in a collision your injuries could be more severe.
8. Sit with Your Feet on the Floor
Additionally, while you are seated facing forward, you should keep your feet on the floor. While curling up or putting your feet on the dashboard may be more comfortable, it can also be dangerous in the event of a collision.
9. Do Not Sit with Anything in Your Lap
Sitting with objects in your lap can increase your risk of injury in the event of a collision as well. Even if you are only going a short distance, if you have something you need to bring with you, find somewhere to store it safely in the vehicle.
10. Speak Up if Necessary
Finally, if your driver is texting, if he or she looks tired, or if you have any other reason to be concerned for your personal safety, speak up. Your driver will most likely thank you for keeping him or her safe as well.
Q&A with Fort Lauderdale Auto Accident Lawyer Gregg Hollander
Q: Can Passengers Be Held Liable for Causing Auto Accidents?
Yes, passengers can be held liable for causing accidents just the same as drivers and other third parties. If a passenger is negligent (i.e. if the passenger grabs the steering wheel or distracts the driver), and if the passenger’s negligence leads to a collision, then the passenger can be held liable for victims’ accident-related losses.
Q: Can Passengers Recover Financial Compensation for Accident-Related Injuries?
Yes. If you were seriously injured while riding as a passenger, you can seek financial compensation for your injuries under Florida law. This includes compensation for your medical expenses, loss of income, loss of future earnings, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and other financial and non-financial losses. In order to recover financial compensation, you will need to determine who was at fault in the accident, and this will require you to engage an experienced Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Q: Can Parents Recover Financial Compensation if Their Child is Injured in a Collision?
Yes. If your child was injured in a collision due to someone else’s negligence or a vehicle or child seat defect, you can file a claim to recover just compensation for your family. This includes all of the same forms of compensation that are available to adult victims, although calculating the long-term costs of a traumatic childhood injury can present some particular challenges.
Q: What if I was Injured in an Accident that was a Friend’s or Family Member’s Fault?
If you were injured in an accident that was a friend’s or family member’s fault, you still can – and should – file a claim for compensation. This is what auto insurance is for; and, most likely, your friend or loved one will want you to take advantage of the coverage that he or she has available. It will also be important to determine whether your friend or family member was solely responsible for causing the collision, or whether another driver or third party may be partially liable as well.
Q: What Should I Do if I (or My Child) was Injured in an Accident as a Passenger?
If you or your child was injured in an auto accident as a passenger, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. You need to make sure you protect your legal rights, and you need to make sure that unnecessary delays do not jeopardize your claim for financial compensation. At Hollander Law Firm, we provide free consultations and you pay nothing unless we win, so there is no risk in contacting us right away.
Speak with an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Auto Accident Lawyer for Free
For more information about passenger safety or passengers’ legal rights after an auto accident in Florida, contact us to speak with an attorney at Hollander Law Firm. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation as soon as possible, call 954-287-0566 or tell us how we can help online today.