Most people are unaware that if you are a passenger in a vehicle and the driver of the vehicle negligently causes a wreck, you are not allowed to sue that driver. This is called the “Guest Passenger” Statute. The Guest-Passenger Statute is unique to Alabama and essentially states that when you choose to ride in a car with someone, you assume the risk that the driver might negligently cause a wreck. Therefore, you are not allowed to recover.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. The traditional exception to this rule is if you pay someone for the ride. For example, if you are in a taxi or an Uber ride, the Guest Passenger Statute does not apply to you. Even if you have just given someone gas money for the ride, that can be sufficient to overcome the Guest Passenger Statute.
Just this past week, the Supreme Court of Alabama deepened this exception to the Guest Passenger Statute. The Supreme Court stated that as long as the Passenger conferred a tangible benefit to the driver of the vehicle, the Guest Passenger Statute does not apply. In this particular case, the driver and passenger were going grocery shopping. The passenger was in the vehicle for the purpose of helping the driver with her grocery shopping because the driver was old and needed help completing her grocery shopping. While the Supreme Court recognized that no money was exchanged, they found the Guest Passenger statute was inapplicable because the passenger’s job of helping with the grocery shopping was a benefit to the driver.
So while this law may seem harsh and unfair at times, it is encouraging to see the Supreme Court recognizing more and more exceptions to this unique Alabama concept.