Can a Passenger Be Held Responsible in a Car Accident in CO?


Most car accidents are caused by drivers, defective or malfunctioning auto parts, or even inclement weather conditions. However, there are some instances in which passengers may be to blame for causing a crash. 

What are the Responsibilities of a Passenger? 

Drivers are responsible for obeying the traffic laws and operating their vehicles in a safe manner. On the other hand, passengers essentially have little to no responsibility for operating the vehicle since they are not in control. 

Yet, passengers can aid the driver by looking out for unexpected and unsafe road conditions, or even remind the driver to wear a seatbelt or slow down if they are quickly approaching idle or stopped vehicles ahead. It is imperative for passengers to allow drivers to remain focused on the primary task of safely operating a vehicle, rather than distract them or encourage any dangerous or reckless driving behavior. 

How Can a Passenger Be Held Liable for a Car Accident? 

Passengers may distract a driver, causing him/her to take their attention away from the road and resulting in a car accident. 

Common examples of distracting behaviors from passengers include: 

  • Block or impede the driver’s vision 

  • Arguing or otherwise engaging in a heated conversation with the driver 

  • Showing the driver a text message, social media post, or anything on a cellphone 

  • Taking a photo or video of the driver 

  • Messing with the radio or navigational system 

However, there are some situations in which a driver may not be able to disregard the passenger’s actions or avoid a collision.  

The following are common examples of dangerous passenger behaviors: 

  • Grabbing the steering wheel 

  • Pressing the gas or brake pedals 

  • Opening the car door while the vehicle is in motion 

If a passenger intentionally or recklessly creates a dangerous situation that caused the driver to take his/her attention away from the road, the passenger could be solely held responsible for the accident. 

What if the Passenger and Driver Share Fault? 

If the driver could have ignored the passenger’s actions or otherwise avoided the crash, then both parties share fault. Under Colorado’s comparative negligence laws, the amount of damages a person can obtain from a car accident can be reduced by his percentage or share of fault for causing the collision. 

If you have been injured in a car accident in Arapahoe County, call the Law Office of Joseph A. Lazzara, P.C. at (720) 809-8262 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. Also serving clients in Denver, Adams, Jefferson, Douglas Counties.