Passengers Suing Drivers For An Accident- the Indiana “Guest Statute” Your Indiana Accident Lawyers

William Bill Hurst

Normally, the operator of a motor vehicle has an obligation to exercise “reasonable care” for the safety and protection of his passengers. Most states, including Indiana, have modified that obligation through the enactment of a “Guest Statute” (IC 34-30-11-1). The purpose of a guest statute is to limit the circumstances under which a passenger can recover for personal injuries or death from the driver of a motor vehicle in which he was a passenger.

The Indiana Supreme Court recently discussed the application of Indiana’s Guest Passenger statute which protects negligent drivers against claims for negligence by certain designated passengers when the passengers are being transported “in or upon the motor vehicle.”

Being ‘in or upon the motor vehicle”’ thus connotes a physical connection to or contact with the vehicle…This understanding is consistent with the statute’s further limiting phrase, “while [the guest] was being transported.” Thus, if the injury is sustained at a time when a passenger is in mere physical contact with the motor vehicle but standing outside of or off of it or at a time when the passenger is not being “transported” by the vehicle, then the Indiana Guest Statute does not bar a passenger’s damage action against the driver. Clark v. Clark, 971 N.E.2d 58, 62 (Ind. 2012).

As previously stated, the Statue only applies to certain listed individuals: the person’s parent; the person’s spouse; the person’s child or stepchild; the person’s brother; the person’s sister; or a hitchhiker. For those listed individuals, lawsuits against the driver are limited to situations where injuries or death of the passenger were caused by the “wanton or willful misconduct” of the driver; in other words, if negligence only is proved, then passengers claims are without merit.

The stated purposes of such statutes are to foster hospitality by limiting lawsuits brought by “ungrateful” guests, to prevent collusion between the passenger and driver, and promote family harmony.

 

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2 Comments

  1. David Ketroser, MD, JD says:

    Your description of the injury from whiplash is incorrect.

    We have known for at least 15 years that the most common cause of chronic neck pain after a rear-end impact is an injury to the cervical facet joints.

    In fact, there is no evidence that chronic pain ever comes from a “soft tissue injury” to the neck.

    Look up radiofrequency neurotomy on the internet to learn more. This treatment is available in every major city in the world and is covered by virtually all insurance.

    The testing for it also objectively proves the injury and the treatment to eliminate the pain works for an average of 12-14 months and then must be repeated, so damages are future medical care rather than future pain and suffering.

    David Ketroser, MD, JD
    Bakquak@Comcast.net

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