Carpools are a popular way, in New York and elsewhere, to get to and from work. After all, they provide the opportunity to catch up with coworkers or relax with a cup of coffee while someone else does the driving.
However, if the carpool is involved in a car accident, there is a definite disadvantage to carpooling. You might think that in these instances, you would not be liable for any damages, since someone else was driving. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
It is true that the law generally holds the driver of the car liable for damages caused by the accident. However, passengers can sometimes be liable as well under a legal doctrine called comparative negligence. In many states like New York, comparative negligence allows the fault for an accident to be shared among everyone involved.
Let’s say that you as a passenger in the carpool spill your coffee on the driver and, due to your clumsiness, he or she loses control of the car and crashes into another vehicle. If the other driver sues the driver of your carpool vehicle, under comparative negligence, your driver can bring you into the lawsuit and claim that you caused the crash because of spilling the coffee.
Once you have been brought into the lawsuit, a court or jury will apply New York’s comparative negligence law to determine what percentage you were at fault for the accident. You would then be liable to the other driver for that percentage of the total damages.
As an example, let’s say that the accident caused $10,000 in damages and the jury found that you are 80 percent at fault for the accident. Under this example, you would owe the other driver $8,000 with the driver of your car owing the remaining $2,000.
Although such scenarios are rare, they can occasionally happen. Given the prevalence of cellphones and other driving distractions, they happen more often than you think.
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the cause of the accident, advise you of your rights, and work to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.