A guest statute provides that an automobile owner or driver has a special duty of care to a non-paying passenger in his or her auto. Guest statutes are enacted by state legislatures and vary by state, but all require more than ordinary negligence of the owner or driver in order for the gratuitous passenger to recover damages. Generally, guest statutes allow a gratuitous passenger to bring suit for negligence against the driver for gross negligence only if the driver could have foreseen that his/her actions or car could put the rider in great danger. Examples include drunk driving and drag racing.
The following is an example of Indiana's guest statute:
Sec. 1. The owner, operator, or person responsible for the operation of a motor vehicle is not liable for loss or damage arising from injuries to or the death of:
- 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; resulting from the operation of the motor vehicle while the parent, spouse, child or stepchild, brother, sister, or hitchhiker was being transported without payment in or upon the motor vehicle unless the injuries or death are caused by the wanton or willful misconduct of the operator, owner, or person responsible for the operation of the motor vehicle. As added by P.L.1-1998, SEC.26.
IC 34-30-11-2 Common carriers; demonstrator vehicles
Sec. 2. This chapter may not be construed to relieve a common carrier or an owner or operator of a motor vehicle while the motor vehicle is being demonstrated to a prospective purchaser of responsibility for injuries sustained by a passenger who is being transported by the common carrier or by the owner or operator.