Can I sue the driver of the vehicle if I am a passenger?
- March 29, 2017
If you were injured in a car accident as a passenger, it’s usually easier to make your case compared to an injured driver because liability will not be an issue. This is because passengers are generally considered “fault-free” in accidents. There will no no comparative negligence and you will be legally entitled to 100% of the value of your damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. Passenger injury claims work just like other car accident claims, although you may have a claim against one or more drivers. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you can make a claim against the driver of the vehicle you were in or both drivers in the case of a two car accident.
Who is Liable for a Passenger’s Injuries?
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the driver of the vehicle you were in, the driver of another vehicle involved in the accident, the registered owner of a vehicle involved in the accident, or some combination of the three can be liable for the passenger’s injuries. In a one-car accident, you will have a claim against the driver of the vehicle. If the accident involved two cars, you should file claims with both drivers’ insurance policies. If the driver of the other vehicle is not the registered owner, the owner of the car may be independently liable for injuries if he or she knowingly lent their vehicle to a known bad driver or someone he or she knew was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Passengers Are “Fault Free”
Under California law, passengers are typically considered “fault free,” which means they are entitled to 100% of their damages because there are no issues of liability. There is one big exception to this rule. Passengers who get into a vehicle with someone they know is under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have their claims denied or limited. The legal doctrine of comparative negligence applies in these cases. Depending on your case, you may be held partially negligent for getting into the car knowing the risks and your settlement or award will be reduced based on your comparative negligence.
How Does a Passenger File an Injury Claim?
As an injured passenger in a car accident, you will need to make a claim against the driver of the vehicle you were in or both drivers, if you were involved in a two-car accident. You will need to obtain insurance information from each driver to file a claim with each insurance company. While you will usually make claims with both insurers, there are cases in which you won’t bother making two claims. If one driver is clearly not at fault for the accident, which is often the case in a rear-end collision, you will only need to file a claim against the at-fault driver.
Your case can be settled once you finish medical treatment and achieve maximum medical improvement (MMI). If both drivers are found partially at fault, you or your personal injury attorney will negotiate with both insurance companies to reach a fair settlement. This process is usually fairly painless, but sometimes there are issues and it can be difficult to settle. This usually happens when the insurance companies dispute comparative negligence, or how at-fault each driver was in the accident. Sometimes, passengers who had no fault in the accident get caught in these disputes over who is liable. An experienced personal injury lawyer will serve as your advocate to fight unnecessary delays in your settlement.
What if There Are Several Injured Passengers?
Car insurance policies have a cap (chosen by the policyholder) for physical damage and bodily injury. The bodily injury coverage is capped at a certain amount per accident. If there were multiple passengers injured in the accident, this can present a problem as all passengers will need to receive compensation from the same pot of money. If the total value of all injury cases exceeds the driver’s insurance limits, each passenger will need to settle for less than the real value of their injuries. If the injured parties can’t agree with each other as to how the money should be divided, the insurance company will not settle with any of them. This will force injured passengers to file a lawsuit to decide how much each will receive.
Contact a Passenger Injury Claim Lawyer in Los Angeles
If you have been injured in an accident as a passenger, it’s important to protect your rights by consulting with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Do not give the insurance adjusters a statement until you talk to a lawyer who can help you build your case and prove your damages.