The state of Alabama observes a “fault” or “tort” system when resolving motor vehicle accidents. If you want compensation for your injuries and damages from a car accident, you must prove that the other driver is at fault. Fault in an accident is decided by how negligent the drivers involved were.
But what happens if you’re just a passenger in a car involved in a collision? Can you sue the vehicle driver for their part in the accident?
The short answer is that you can’t just file any lawsuit against the vehicle driver. Alabama uniquely has a “guest statute” that prevents a guest passenger – a person riding as a passenger who didn’t pay the driver for the ride – from filing a lawsuit over their negligence.
However, guest passengers can sue a vehicle driver if they prove that the driver acted willfully or recklessly. Willful or reckless behavior is a higher standard of fault than negligence and is a significant factor in how the collision occurred.
Various kinds of driving behaviors can count as recklessness. The most common examples include:
You should watch for these behaviors (or similar other actions) if you want to hold your driver accountable for an accident.
While guest passengers can’t sue drivers for negligence, there’s still an expectation that drivers should exercise reasonable care for all passengers. Reckless driving behavior violates this expectation, and passengers can hold drivers responsible for the injuries and damages they suffer following a collision. Because of the complexity of state laws, such as the guest statute, passengers who want to file a lawsuit should consider consulting a lawyer experienced in motor vehicle accidents.