An "automobile guest statute" is a law that prohibits car passengers from suing the driver for injuries suffered in an accident. These statutes only apply to "non-paying" passengers. Automobile guest statutes do not apply to passengers in taxis, buses, or other public transportation.  Guest statutes are designed to make it more difficult for passengers in automibiles to recover damages from the driver resulting from ordinary negligence.

Do Guests in Automobile Accidents Have Any Right to Recovery?

Guests in automobile accidents are usually barred from bringing a claim against the driver for ordinary negligence. However, the guest may bring a suit against the driver if the driver’s conduct was reckless, malicious, and intentional.

For example, if the driver was drunk or drove recklessly which resulted in an accident that caused the guest injury, the guest may bring a claim against the driver for this intentional and reckless conduct.

Does Every State Have Automobile Guest Statutes? 

These statutes only exist in a few states. The states with automobile guest statutes require that the driver operated the vehicle in a grossly negligent or reckless manner to be liable for passenger injuries. Most states hold a driver liable if he operates the vehicle in an ordinary negligent manner.        

Would Should I Do If I Was Injured as a Passenger in a Vehicle?

Regardless of the existence of an automobile guest statute in your state, you should still take the following actions if involved in an accident: 

  • Get a police report
  • Get personal information of those involved – insurance policy numbers, addresses, phone numbers, etc.
  • Be prepared to give your account of the situation

Can My Actions as a Passenger Affect What I Can Recover from the Accident?

Some states limit or prohibit recovery if you are partially responsible for your injuries. For example, in California, if you didn’t have your seat belt on in an accident, the amount you could recover would be limited. Also, being partially responsible for causing the accident (e.g., distracting the driver) may severely limit your recovery.  

Should I Get a Lawyer? 

If you suffered an injury as a result of an auto accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your rights, defenses, and the complicated legal system. Auto accident injuries can be very devastating; a personal injury lawyer can help you seek compensation.