We often focus on drivers who are injured in car crashes, but many of the victims are passengers in the vehicles, who can suffer devastating injuries or death. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 22,543 passengers of motor vehicles were killed in 2015—64 percent of all fatalities. Just like drivers, passengers have rights to compensation for their injuries from whoever caused the car accident. While in some ways their claim may be easier than if they were the driver, victims still need the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney in order to receive the compensation they deserve.
Who Could Be Liable for Compensating a Passenger in a Car Accident?
Unlike drivers, passengers are not usually at fault in causing a car accident, making a dispute as to their liability rarely an issue in their claim. However, a passenger will still need to prove the driver’s negligence in causing his injuries in order to be entitled to compensation. Here are potential parties who may be liable for compensating a passenger:
- Driver of car the person is riding in. In some cases, the negligent driver will be the person driving the car the passenger was in. This is often a family member or friend of the passenger. A passenger may feel guilty for filing a claim against his friend or family member. However, it is important to remember that the negligent driver would not be paying him. His insurance company would be responsible for paying the amount owed.
- Other driver. If the driver of the other car involved in the crash was at fault, a passenger would file a claim with his insurance company.
- Third party. If driver negligence was not the cause of the wreck, a passenger may need to turn to third parties for compensation for his injuries. For example, a municipality could be responsible if road repair or design caused the accident. If a defective part in one of the vehicles caused the passenger’s injuries, he may have a products liability claim against the automobile and parts manufacturers.
- Own insurance policy. If a passenger carries medical coverage or underinsured or uninsured coverage, he may be able to file a claim under this coverage for his losses not covered by a negligent party.
A passenger may need to file a claim with more than one of these parties. For example, if both drivers were partially at fault in causing the accident, a passenger should file a claim with both insurance companies. By pursuing a claim for compensation with all potentially liable parties, a passenger will be more likely to obtain a settlement that fully compensates him.
What Are Potential Problems in Passenger Injury Claims?
While passenger claims can be less complicated than those of the driver, they can still be difficult to settle. Here are some of the issues that can arise and delay a settlement:
- Disputes about negligence. The insurance companies for both drivers could argue that the other driver was the one at fault for causing the accident. Neither may be willing to settle the passenger’s claim. In this situation, the victim becomes caught up in the drivers’ dispute and must litigate his claim until an agreement or determination of liability is made.
- Multiple claims. The bottom line is that the negligent driver’s insurance company is only liable for the insurance liability limit. If more than one person was injured, they would be all filing claims for compensation out of one pot of money. The insurance company would most likely be unwilling to settle with one of them unless all other claims were resolved as well. This could also result in there not being sufficient insurance coverage to fully compensate the victims.
- Comparative negligence. In rare cases, a passenger could be partially at fault in causing an accident. If he grabbed the steering wheel or shoved his cellphone in front of the driver’s face, he could be found negligent. In this scenario, there could be disputes with the insurance company as to the portion of compensation that they are responsible for paying.
If you were a passenger injured in a car accident, you need an experienced car accident attorney to help you identify all potentially liable parties and fight for your rights to compensation for your injuries. To learn how the legal team at Christopher J. Hudson, LLC can assist you, contact us online or call us directly at 888.795.6261 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.