Getting hurt in a car accident as a passenger is usually easier to resolve than if you were a driver. Typically, this is because you are not responsible for proving or disproving liability for the accident. By default, one of the drivers in a two-vehicle accident will be liable.
If the accident involved one vehicle, where for example the driver hits a tree, that driver will most likely be liable. The general rule is by hitting something, the driver did something that is considered negligence.
However, there are always exceptions such as hitting a deer that suddenly enters the road. No one is expecting that. Even with road signs, you cannot pinpoint the exact moment when a deer may jump out from bushes.
Filing an Injury Claim as a Passenger
Your personal injury claim as a passenger proceeds just as it would for any type of car accident. Therefore, you will need to collect insurance information for the drivers involved so you can file claims with each insurance company.
The only reason you may not need this information for both drivers is if the cause of the accident is obvious at the scene. If the vehicle in which you were riding was rear ended, the driver was not negligent. You would only file a claim against the driver who hit the other car from behind.
Claims against the Driver’s Insurance
When the driver of the vehicle you were in is determined to be at-fault, you have the legal right to file a claim against their insurance. You will receive financial compensation from their liability coverage for any injuries you sustained.
Most likely, you will receive payment for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering up to the limits of the policy. Special rules may apply if you are related to the driver. In these situations, the insurance company might deny your claim because its policy does not cover injured passengers who are related to the driver.
The rule for this is the claim would essentially cover its own insured driver. Usually, an insured driver cannot file a claim against their liability insurance coverage.
Claims against the Other Driver’s Insurance
When the other driver is at-fault, your claim can move forward even if the other driver shared the least amount of fault than the other driver. You have a right to collect because shared liability exists. Keep in mind that the shared responsibility may set a limit on how much you can collect.
Your maximum amount cannot be more than the total of the claim. In practice, you could not receive $60,000 if the total amount of damages was only $40,000.
Filing a Claim with Your Auto Policy
In addition to filing claims with one or two drivers involved in the accident, you may also be able to file a claim for medical payments with your car insurance policy. Since this coverage is not based on liability, it will not require that you be at-fault.
Other coverages such as lost wages or other expenses not related to your medical care are not covered. This included pain and suffering. If you do receive compensation for medical expenses from your policy, that amount could be deducted from the settlement you receive through the driver’s insurance policy.
If for some reason you are found to be at-fault, even partially, your damages can be reduced by a proportionate amount. Most states follow this system. Others will not award any damages to passengers even if they were remotely at-fault for the accident that led to their injuries.
Getting Legal Assistance from a Personal Injury Attorney
One of the most difficult and confusing situations is being in a car accident. While your first obligation is to get well, your second should be to contact a personal injury attorney who will determine the value of your claim and fight to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.