Injured as a Passenger in an Auto Accident
By Sandra Dalton, Staff Writer
If you were injured as a passenger in an auto accident, your case will be significantly different than it would be if you were a driver. Several factors will determine the right path for you, including the jurisdiction where the accident occurred, your relationship to the driver of the vehicle you were riding in, and whether you were in a no-fault insurance state. In many cases you can seek compensation from the insurers of both drivers as well as your own insurance company.
Generally, a passenger cannot be found at fault for an accident. The rare exception would be an accident in which the passenger did something extreme, like grabbing the steering wheel and intentionally veering the vehicle off the road.
What you do have to watch out for is getting in a vehicle with a driver you know to be intoxicated. This will not make you at fault for the accident, but it can make you partly to blame for your injuries. In a few states, bearing any amount of responsibility can bar your claim. In most states it reduces your compensation.
Claims in At-Fault States
In an at-fault state, you will typically file a claim against both drivers’ insurance companies. If one driver’s policy limits are not enough to pay for your injuries, and the other driver was partly to blame, you can still collect from the less at-fault driver. If that still does not cover all of your damages, you can turn to your own uninsured/underinsured coverage, if you have it. You may also have your own “med pay” coverage that will pay for medical expenses while you wait for your case against the other insurance companies to be resolved by settlement or verdict.
Claims in No-Fault States
In a no-fault state, you can recover money faster, but it is limited. You would first seek compensation from the insurance company of the driver of the car you were riding in. This would be under their no-fault coverage. If your injuries meet the threshold that allows you to sue in that state, you would also pursue compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
The no-fault coverage does not pay for noneconomic damages. It will generally pay a limited amount of medical expenses and a small portion of lost income. That is the part you can collect quickly because you do not need to prove fault.
If you are also allowed to sue, you can seek compensation for your full damages, including your noneconomic damages.
You Can Only Collect What Your Claim is Worth
Although you can pursue compensation from multiple insurance companies, the total you receive from all of them combined cannot exceed your damages. In other words, you cannot recover your full medical expenses, or other losses, twice just because more than one insurance company is paying.
If You Were Riding With a Relative
If you were riding with a relative that you live with, you may have difficulty collecting from that driver’s insurance. It will depend on the wording of the policy and the laws in your state.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine how to proceed and who can ultimately be held responsible for your injuries so that you do not miss out on any possible avenue of compensation.
If you were injured as a passenger in an auto accident, you can learn more about your rights and how you can recover damages for your losses by searching our directory to find a lawyer near you.