Who Can a Passenger Sue in an Automobile Accident?
In Texas, if you are involved in a car crash as a passenger, you can pursue claims against any drivers involved, including the driver of the vehicle you were in. Beyond that, you can also sue people and entities that may have contributed to your crash and injuries in other ways, such as the vehicle’s manufacturer, property owners, and drinking establishments that over-served an intoxicated driver.
Product Liability Lawsuits Following a Car Crash
It is important to remember that as a passenger you have the right to pursue litigation against any person or entity that caused or contributed to your injuries. This is especially true in crashes involving a defective vehicle.
2016 set a record high for vehicle recalls with 53.2 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. alone. Many of these recalls were associated with two prominent defects:
- Faulty ignition switches equipped in General Motors vehicles (linked to approximately 124 deaths)
- Faulty airbags manufactured by Takata Corporation (linked to at least 20 deaths)
These two defects represent two ways defective vehicles may apply to your case: defects that contribute to a crash, and defects that make the injuries sustained in a crash worse than what they otherwise would have been.
In the first, faulty ignition switches manufactured by GM were causing vehicles to stall unexpectedly, leaving drivers without acceleration, power brakes, or power steering. The sudden loss of these functions was the direct cause of hundreds of crashes.
In the second, faulty airbags manufactured were essentially exploding upon deployment due to a highly volatile propellant. While the airbags were not the direct cause of the crash, the shrapnel and metal ejected by the exploding airbags resulting in severe and sometime fatal facial, neck, and bodily injuries.
Other common vehicle defects are:
- Defective steering components
- Door latch failures
- Defective gas tanks and fuel lines
- Seat belt failures
- Defective child seat anchors (LATCH System anchors)
- Defective airbags
- Tire defects
- Weak vehicle structure
Suing a Bar for Over-Serving a Drunk Driver
The law states that dram shops can be liable for injuries or death to a third party caused by a drunk driver that was overserved in the establishment. The vast majority of states have a dram shop law or act, though the specific verbiage of each one can vary.
The law in Texas states that a bar can be held liable if they knew or should have known that the drunk driver was obviously intoxicated at their establishment yet continued to serve them more alcoholic drinks to the extent that he or she presented a clear danger to himself and others. Injured parties seeking compensation for their damages have to prove that the dram shop served the drunk driver after obvious intoxication and that the driver’s inebriation was the proximate cause of the auto wreck.
Dram shops can protect themselves from liability in these cases if employees attend seller training programs through the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). If the employees in fact attended these programs, the employer has proof of such attendance, and the employer did not encourage employees to violate the law, the dram shop in question can potentially avoid a lawsuit.
It is important to remember that dram shop liability does not mean the drunk driver is off the hook from liability. In many cases, the overserving dram shop and the drunk driver share liability in the accident, and of course, the driver can still be punished criminally.
What If I Have Questions Concerning My Auto Accident?
If you were involved in a car crash and have any questions concerning your rights or who may be held liable, contact Thomas J. Henry immediately. Our experienced auto accident attorneys have experience handling a multitude of injury accidents, no matter how severe the crash or injury. You may be entitled to compensation for your damages if another driver acted negligently. Our firm has the experienced lawyers and financial resources that you need to achieve the real results you deserve.
Our firm has offices in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston, serving clients across Texas and nationwide. Call us today for a free case review — attorneys are available 24/7, nights and weekends. If you cannot make it to our office, we can visit you at your home, in the hospital, or at work.