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).
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
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
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