An 18-year-old driver passed away in a recent crash that also injured his three young passengers, one of whom was not wearing a seat belt. The deadly crash is an example of a case where passengers may have claims against the driver of their vehicle, as well as the numerous reasons why it’s unwise to skip wearing a seat belt.

Deadly crash in Pomona

On Monday, December 10, an 18-year-old El Monte man was driving east on the 10 Freeway at roughly 3:40 am in a 2004 Ford Expedition SUV. He was carrying three young passengers: a 15-year-old girl, an 18-year-old man, and a 17-year-old girl. The driver exited the freeway on the White Avenue exit in Pomona while traveling at a high rate of speed. He lost control of the vehicle, sending it careening onto the shoulder through the curve of the road and striking a light pole in the process. The SUV ricocheted off the light pole, hit a chain link fence, and rolled over multiple times. The Ford ultimately came to a stop on White Avenue. The driver was declared dead. According to the CHP, the 15-year-old was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash and was ejected from the vehicle. She and the other young woman suffered serious injuries and were transported to local hospitals. The third passenger was also taken to the hospital, having suffered moderate injuries.

Liability for passenger injuries

When passengers are injured in a crash, they will often have a claim against the driver responsible for the accident, even when the driver responsible was the driver of the vehicle in which they were a passenger. For the most part, these claims will be filed against the driver’s insurance without resulting in an additional financial obligation for the driver personally.

Rarely does a passenger in a crash bear any liability for their injuries, since they were not responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle. The young passengers in the recent accident may choose to file claims against the insurance policy of the driver in the recent crash. In this case, however, the young girl who was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash may have difficulty recovering the full value of her injuries. California is among a minority of states that allows at-fault drivers to use the seat belt defense to a claim for damages. According to this rule, when a seat belt was available to an accident victim, a reasonable person in their position would have worn one, and the victim’s injuries could have been reduced through the use of a seat belt, then the victim’s award for money damages may be reduced or eliminated entirely. Car accident victims who were not wearing a seat belt at the time of a crash should consult with a seasoned Whittier, California injury accident attorney to learn whether their claim for damages can be preserved with the help of skilled legal representation.

If you’ve been hurt in a crash in Southern California, get help recovering money damages for your injuries by contacting the professional and effective personal injury lawyers at Hanning & Sacchetto, LLP for a consultation on your case, at 562-698-6446, with offices in Whittier, Ontario, Arcadia, Pomona, Glendora, and Irvine.