Skip to main content

Exit WCAG Theme

Switch to Non-ADA Website

Accessibility Options

Select Text Sizes

Select Text Color

Website Accessibility Information Close Options
Close Menu
Gilbert Adams Law Offices Since 1930
  • Since 1930
  • ~
  • Free consultation

Personal Injury Newsletter

Duty of a Vehicle Driver to Passengers

If you are injured in a traffic collision while riding as a passenger in a vehicle, you may want to know about the driver’s liability toward you. The driver does have a duty to act responsibly toward you, but the extent of that duty depends on what kind of passenger you are.

The Non-Paying Passenger

The free rider, also known as the gratuitous guest, is typically not paying the driver to be transported. In most jurisdictions, the driver’s duty to a non-paying passenger is that of reasonable care. As long as the driver isn’t foolishly reckless or intentionally driving dangerously, he or she is relatively free from liability.

The Paying Passenger

The duty of the driver is somewhat heightened, however, when the passenger is a paying customer conferring a benefit (money) to the driver. Providing companionship to the driver is not enough benefit for a higher standard of care to be attributed. Neither is a contribution for gasoline expenses. For actual paying passengers, if the driver is negligent in any way, he or she will be held liable for damages.

What if the Passenger Isn’t Wearing a Seat Belt?

The driver may claim that the passenger was injured because he or she failed to wear a seat belt. However, the courts normally reject this defense, since it is the driver who caused the collision, not the seatbelt, or lack thereof.

Other Types of Passengers

There are a few unique driver/passenger situations that should be noted.


  • When owners are passengers in their own vehicles, they are not transformed to guest status. Essentially, owners are still paying for the transportation, whether they are driving or not.

  • Family members and minors are generally treated as guests, but it usually depends on the circumstances. Children who cannot think for themselves yet (such as babies) are not treated as guests.

  • Intoxicated passengers are still treated as guests unless the applicable law in the jurisdiction requires them to be able to make a conscious decision to ride.

  • Suing an Employer Instead of Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
    Workplace injuries are usually followed by a Workers’ Compensation claim filed on behalf of the injured employee. However, in certain situations a lawsuit against the employer may be more appropriate and more rewarding for the... Read more.
  • Hospital-Acquired Infections – A Deadly Threat to Patients
    A nosocomial infection, or hospital-acquired infection, is an infection that was contracted in a hospital. Such infections can be the result of many different factors including poorly sterilized equipment, defective equipment design... Read more.
  • Negligent Hiring Doctrine
    “Negligent hiring” is a legal doctrine that holds employers liable for unlawful acts committed by their employees. The issue arises when an employer hires a person that she knew or should have known could pose an undue risk... Read more.
  • Driving Regulations for Elders
    It is undeniable that the coordination of many skills is required for safe driving. Many of the physical and mental changes that come with aging diminish such skills. Aging commonly results in one or more of the following... Read more.
Personal Injury News Links

Do you have questions about an important legal matter, wondering whether you have a claim or what your rights are, and what to do next to seek justice and protect your interests? Call our office at 409-835-3000 or fill out the form below to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated Texas attorney.

By submitting this form I acknowledge that form submissions via this website do not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information I send is not protected by attorney-client privilege.

Skip footer and go back to main navigation