How Can Passengers Recover Damages After a Car Accident?

Passengers, even those who may have caused a distraction, are rarely considered at fault for car accidents. This is because they were not in control of the vehicle when the incident occurred. An injured passenger may, however, be able to hold one or both drivers liable for damages. All drivers have a responsibility to their passengers to exercise due care in the operation of their vehicle. If they breach this duty of care, you might have grounds to bring a lawsuit against the negligent driver outside of the state’s insurance system. If you would like to discuss your potential car accident case and your right to compensation with an experienced Virginia Beach car accident lawyer, call Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today to schedule your free consultation.  

Who Can Be Held Liable for Passenger Injuries?

Virginia law states that an injured passenger is entitled to bring a suit against the negligent driver. This applies even if they were driving the vehicle in which the passenger was riding. The law also says:

  • If driver negligence causes a single-vehicle accident, a passenger might be eligible to file a claim with the driver’s insurance company for current and anticipated medical bills relating to the accident, the cost of prescription medicines, lost and future lost wages, reduced earning capacity, diminished quality of life, disfigurement, disability, and pain and suffering.
  • If additional vehicles were involved in the accident, one or both drivers may be held liable. If the driver of the injured passenger was partly or totally at fault, the passenger can file a claim with that driver’s insurance company. They may also be able to file a claim with the other driver’s insurer, but only if they are found partly or totally at fault.  
  • If the at-fault driver was someone other than the car’s registered owner, the owner might be found independently liable for the passenger’s injuries if they knowingly loaned their car to a driver they knew was dangerous, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • If the injured passenger has medical payments coverage or personal injury protection on their auto insurance policy, they may be able to pursue a first-party claim via Virginia’s add-on no-fault law. In this scenario, their insurer would cover their medical expenses, but not damages like pain and suffering. If the passenger collects damages from the at-fault driver’s insurer, the insurance carrier will usually deduct the amount they received from the total recovery.

What Should I Do If I am Injured as a Passenger?

Passengers injured in automobile accidents should take most of the same steps as the drivers, such as documenting the names, phone numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance details of everyone involved. They should also file their injury claims in a timely fashion since the two-year statute of limitations applies to them as well.  

To receive damages for their accident-related injuries, passengers will need to show that the negligence of one or both drivers caused the collision. 


If you are injured in an accident where the driver is someone you have hired, such as a taxi or limo service, their employer could be found vicariously liable for damages rather than the driver themselves. Rideshare companies, however, cannot be held liable for their drivers in most cases. Lyft and Uber drivers are independent contractors and therefore are personally responsible for any accidents they cause. Both companies do carry $1 million insurance policies which cover injured passengers if the accident occurred while the driver was on duty.  

Contact a Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyer

If you were injured as a passenger in a car accident and are considering filing a lawsuit, you need to work with a reputable and experienced Virginia Beach car accident lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. We have the skills and resources to thoroughly investigate your accident, collect important evidence, negotiate with the insurance company, and protect your best interests during the settlement or trial process. Our decades of experience made it possible for our firm to secure a $300,000 settlement for one of our clients after he was injured as a passenger in a T-bone collision. If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys regarding a potential car accident claim, you can schedule a free consultation by calling us at (833) 997-1774 or by filling out our online contact form. Our offices are in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, and Portsmouth.