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Passenger Safety in Auto Accidents

Have You or a Loved One Been Injured in an Accident as a Passenger?

Every day in America, parents place children in the back seat of their vehicles. Commuters board buses and trains on their way to work. Kids step onto school buses or catch a ride with the neighborhood carpool. Workers use taxi cabs to get to their places of employment.

People around the nation travel daily in many different forms and to many different places. However, what many have in common is that they are passengers and not in control of the drive.

From time to time, everyone is a passenger on transportation. Some people are more likely to be passengers than others because of their position in life. This includes children who are too young to drive and the elderly who are not capable or choose not to drive.

As our society becomes more crowded, traffic increases. Carpooling or public transit are a reality for more Americans, including those in Illinois.

Being a passenger has many advantages. They incur fewer transit costs and can maximize their time by engaging in other activities while riding. When you ride as a passenger, though, there is a tradeoff. You must relinquish control of your ride to the person who is driving the car, bus, or train.

Many passengers express discomfort when asked if they feel safe during their travel. Accidents can happen when anyone is driving. But it is human nature to feel safer when you are in control. Even when a passenger trusts the driver, there is still a chance that an accident will result and that injuries will occur.

Liability for Passenger Injuries

As a passenger, accidents can be the fault of the driver of your vehicle or the driver of another vehicle. And even a safe driver can make a mistake and place her passengers at risk.

Different types of operators are held to different standards when it comes to passenger safety. The highest standard is held by those operating public transit vehicles, whether cars, buses, or trains. As these operators are responsible for the safety of many passengers, their duty is high and they must operate with the utmost care for those on their vehicles. Even a minor infraction can make a public transit employee liable for any injuries that result to a passenger.

Other drivers who are not in the business of transporting the public from one place to another must still exercise reasonable care for their passengers. In most cases, this involves drivers of passenger vehicles taking friends, family members, or neighbors for a ride. When the driver does not act cautiously, accidents often occur and many accidents result in injuries to the passengers.

Passengers Can Sue Their Driver or The Other Driver

After a crash, passengers of an at-fault driver often do not realize that they can bring a claim for their damages. Simply riding in the car of the driver that caused the collision does not bar a passenger from recovery. Rather, an injured passenger can bring a claim directly against the responsible driver. This, even if the driver is a family member.

In this situation, passengers that suffer injury can look to make a recovery from the driver’s auto insurance. Further, in Illinois, one spouse can recover for injuries that were due to the negligence of another spouse. There is no spousal immunity.

Car passengers are often injured as the result of the negligence of a driver of another vehicle. In these cases, passengers can still bring claims for their injuries against the other driver. Again, the law allows victims to recover for their damages when the negligence of another driver was the cause of a crash.

Safety Tips for Passengers

While passengers may relinquish control of a ride to an operator, there are several things that a passenger can do to be as safe as possible during travel:

  • Always wear a seat belt. Since the invention of the seat belt, studies routinely show that when worn properly, seat belts save lives. The lap portion of a seat belt should be worn low over the hips and the shoulder strap should be low across the body, not next to the neck.
  • Secure children in appropriate child restraints. States vary in their requirements of child safety restraints. However, even if the law is lax in some areas, parents should always properly restrain children. Depending on the age, height, and weight of a child, this may include a rear facing car seat, a front facing car seat, a booster seat, or merely a seat belt. Child restraints are only effective when used properly. A parent should follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Only adult passengers should sit near some airbags. Traditional airbags that deploy from the dashboard or steering wheel should usually only be used with adults. Children should remain in the back seat. However, each car is different so ask the driver or owner of the car before you ride.
  • Secure all loose items, including luggage. Whether on public transportation or in a private vehicle, loose objects can pose a danger. In the event of a crash, loose objects, like boxes and suitcases, can become airborne and turn into projectiles. When these projectiles make contact with a passenger, greater injuries are likely to result than if the suitcase or package had been properly stowed.
  • Only sit in designated seats. When facing a long ride on public transportation, it is tempting to sit on stairwells, in vestibules, or even on the floor. However, these areas are not designed for passenger seating. Therefore, they do not have the safety devices that exist in other areas. Refrain from placing yourself in danger, Do not occupy unintended areas and always sit in a designated seat when possible.

Consult with a Car Accident Lawyer

Even when a passenger acts as safely as possible, collisions still occur and injuries may still result. When this happens, it is important to speak with a personal injury lawyer. This, to learn whether you may have a claim for your damages. Each case is unique and the facts of every accident are different. To get the best advice possible, you should speak with an accident lawyer to learn about your legal options.

At Abels & Annes, P.C., we are concerned with the safety of passengers and their rights after an accident. Our lawyers understand that you may want answers immediately and we are here to help. We work hard for each of our clients so that we can obtain the maximum possible award in each case. If you are a passenger with injuries from an accident, call us today at (312) 924-7575 and let us help you.

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