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When Liability Rests With the One Sitting Next to You: Lawsuits Filed by Passengers Against Drivers

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Although the most common automobile accident case involves two vehicles — with the driver of one claiming the driver of the other was responsible — sometimes only one vehicle is involved. In this case, the passenger in the vehicle may claim injury as a result of his own driver’s negligence, even if the driver is a close friend or family member.

Options for Colorado Passengers

Since Colorado transitioned from a no-fault to a fault insurance state in 2003, passengers injured in automobile accidents now have several options when trying to collect compensation for medical bills and other damages:

  • Filing a claim against the insurance company of the driver of the car they were riding in
  • Filing a claim against the insurance company of the at-fault driver of another vehicle, if one was involved
  • Filing a claim against their own insurance company
  • Filing a civil lawsuit seeking damages against the liable party or parties

If multiple cars were involved and other drivers were at fault, they can be sued if negligence can be shown.

But a driver is not considered to be at fault just because a citation was issued against them by law enforcement. Insurance carriers that receive claims against their company will conduct their own investigation, review the police report and speak with witnesses to the accident to determine whether or not their insured was truly at fault.

Guest Statutes

The driver of an automobile can be sued for negligence that results in the injury of passengers, although some states have a guest statute requiring guests and non-paying passengers to prove that the driver was grossly negligent in order to recover damages. Colorado’s guest statute was repealed in 1975.

Common Injuries Passengers Sustain in Automobile Accidents

Passengers who are involved in automobile accidents may suffer many types of serious injuries, including:

  • Head injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Injuries to internal organs
  • Disfigurement
  • Aggravation of pre-existing conditions

What Should a Passenger Do When Injured in an Automobile Accident?

A passenger who is injured in an automobile accident should do many of the same things that a driver should do, including collecting names, addresses, license numbers and insurance policy information from the other parties. A passenger can collect for damages in two ways: either through the driver’s medical payments coverage or by filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability coverage.

Image by Cheryl Wulf.


My daughter and I first consulted with Dan Rosen after a very serious auto accident. Dan had several phone conferences with me, and Tracie was available whenever I called. We would recommend personal injury attorney Dan Rosen to anyone!
Sally from Denver, Colorado

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