Is Passenger Responsible for Accident by Texting Driver?

Tulsa police identified texting while driving as a cause in one of four rollover car accidents in the city over the past 24 hours. The first car accident involved two cars drag racing. One of the drivers lost control of the car as it approached a slower moving vehicle.  The second car accident occurred when a driver speaking on a cell phone lost control of her car when she also approached a slower moving vehicle. The third car accident involved a woman who was texting while driving. The final rollover car accident resulted from a driver’s failure to maneuver a bend in the road. If you believe you were in an accident caused by a texting driver, call our auto accident attorneys in Tulsa immediately and discuss your case.

While distracted driving by the car’s operator contributed to each rollover car accident, what responsibility would a passenger have in these circumstances? If a passenger is injured because the driver was either distracted or not paying close attention while driving, can the insurance company accuse the passenger of some wrong-doing? As crazy as that might sound, the answer is generally yes under Oklahoma law.

Oklahoma courts have held that an insurance company may accuse the passenger of contributory negligence under a variety of circumstances. In one case, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that it was permissible for an insurance company to accuse a passenger who fell asleep of contributing to the driver’s negligent operation of the car, and thus helped cause the accident. See Rader v. Fleming, 1967 OK 104, ¶ 13. In another case the the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that an insurance company could accuse a passenger of contributory negligence if he or she failed to caution the driver about dangerous driving or to watch for road hazards. See Bradshaw v. Fields, 1977 OK 240, ¶ 10.

Of course, simply permitting the insurance company to accuse the passenger of contributing to the accident does not mean that a jury will agree, but it does give the jury that option, rightly or wrongly. The ability to accuse the passenger also gives the insurance company some marginal leverage during settlement negotiations.

More coverage from KOTV here: Drag Racing, Texting Involved In Tulsa Rollover Wrecks