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Passenger Rights in an Accident
July 06, 2015

Passenger Rights in an Accident

What are passenger rights in an auto accident? You may need to know if you or a family member was hurt in a crash as a passenger or “ride-along” in a vehicle. You should understand you may have a legal right to claim payments for your injury losses.

Liability is Not an Issue

In fact, you may have an easier time asserting your legal rights than an injured driver, since liability in a crash is typically not an issue for an injured passenger. Rather, in virtually every case, a driver is liable for a crash.

The passenger need not prove this liability. The passenger only needs to prove damages, or costs resulting from injuries or other traumas related to the crash.

However, keep in mind that there are behaviors that may neutralize your injury claim as a passenger. You may be unable to sue for damages if you caused distractions to the driver, encouraged the driver to speed, failed to wear your seat belt or did anything else which made you negligent, not just the driver. Remember there are distinct differences between negligence and liability and it is important to understand how your behaviors may impact your negligence in a car accident.

When Both Drivers Are At Fault

In some cases, an injured passenger could make injury claims against both drivers in a two-vehicle accident, provided both drivers shared liability. That would mean filing claims with each driver’s insurance company or having an injury lawyer negotiate a settlement with both companies. When both drivers are at fault, things can get tricky for injured passengers, who can get caught in the middle of a dispute over their shared liability.

If each driver is found to be 50% liable, that simplifies things for a passenger. But if one driver is found to be 75% at fault, that driver’s insurer may dispute this and fight for a reduction in liability — while the passenger waits to get paid.

Whether you are a passenger of the driver who is more or less at fault does not affect your claim since, as a passenger, you were not at fault. However, when two drivers or their insurers fight over shared liability, that can delay a passenger’s injury claim being settled.

Med Pay Coverage

While waiting for a claim to be settled, you may be able to make a claim strictly for medical payments, or med pay coverage, under your own auto insurance policy — even though you were a passenger and not a driver in the wreck.

Med pay payments are not contingent on placing liability for the collision and thus can be made while liability is still being established. However, med pay only involves payments for your medical costs due to the accident, and not payments for your lost salary, pain and suffering, or any other costs to you resulting from the accident.

Typically, med pay is likely to have limits in the ballpark of $10,000 on a standard insurance policy. If that’s insufficient for your medical expenses, you still can file a claim with the insurance policies of the owner or driver of the vehicle or vehicles in the accident.

However, any money that you receive via med pay before a claim is settled will be deducted from the final settlement amount. You won’t be paid twice for your medical costs by receiving med pay in advance of the settlement.

When Several Passengers Are Injured

Another complicating factor involves when several passengers are injured. Then, each passenger will have a different claim for damages, and their combined claims may exceed the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. That means passengers may have to settle for less than their claim is worth.

However, if more than one driver was at least partly at fault, claims can be filed against the insurance policies of each driver. By means of such multiple claims you may be able to get paid what your injury is worth.

Similar to med pay coverage, you won’t be allowed to “double dip,” or receive more money than your claim is worth. You can only use one claim to offset the inadequacy of the other.

If passengers are unable to receive a settlement for their injury claim under such circumstances, they can file a lawsuit against the driver’s insurer to claim what they believe their damages are worth.

Third Party Claims

These ridealong or passenger lawsuits are known as third-party claims. That’s because the plaintiff — the injured passenger — is making a claim under an insurance policy which isn’t their own. The passenger’s claim can be against:

  1. the insurance policy of the driver or owner of the car in which they rode at the moment of the accident
  2. the policy of the driver or owner of another vehicle in the accident

In some cases, a passenger also can file a claim with his or her own insurer provided they have the proper uninsured motorist coverage or under-insured motorist coverage. This must be purchased as a supplement to their own policy.

Passengers Related to Drivers

In many car wreck cases, passengers are related to drivers, whether a sibling, parent, spouse or child of the driver. If an injured passenger lives with or is related to the driver, the passenger likely cannot press a claim against the driver’s insurer. Rather, the passenger will be considered insured under that policy and cannot file a claim against it.

Another option is to file a lawsuit against an at-fault driver personally, but that can be a poor option if the driver is a family member.

Get a Car Accident Lawyer

If you have any trouble collecting payments for your injury after an accident, get a car accident lawyer from Jim Adler & Associates to help you — and at no upfront cost to you.

The law firm can give you free legal advice when you contact us — and some advice right now. That advice is to purchase uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage with your own auto insurance policy to protect yourself in some claims, including claims as an injured passenger.

Contact a Jim Adler & Associates injury attorney today for more information about making your claim and protecting your legal rights after injury as a passenger in a traffic collision.

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