What Rights Do Passengers Have in Accidents?

What Rights Do Passengers Have in Accidents?

February 1, 2023

When discussing car crashes, most legal advice focuses on the drivers of the vehicles. However, it’s important to realize that many of the people harmed in an accident are not operating the car. If you are riding in a car when it gets in an accident, you still have the right to get financial help for your injuries. Being aware of these rights can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Will the Drivers’ Insurance Cover Your Injuries?

The most important thing you need to know is that you have the right to get help from all parties’ insurance companies. The exact assistance you get usually depends on coverage options. California requires all vehicle drivers to have $15,000 worth of bodily injury coverage per person. There are also other types of coverage, like no-fault medical payment coverage, that might be applicable to your situation.

When you are injured in a car accident where you were not driving, you should not have to rely on your savings or healthcare insurance to pay for these injuries. Instead, you can file a claim with the auto insurance policy of the person driving your vehicle, the person driving the other vehicle, and even your own auto insurance. Usually, these insurance companies will try to determine who is at fault and push the financial responsibility onto the at-fault driver’s policy.

Can People Riding in a Car Sue for Injuries After an Accident?

If the involved insurance companies aren’t offering enough help paying for your damages, you have some other alternatives available. With the help of a personal injury attorney, you can file a lawsuit with the California civil courts. These sorts of lawsuits argue that the drivers had a responsibility to follow the rules of the road, but they were negligent and ended up getting innocent people such as you hurt. If the court rules in your favor, one or both of the drivers will have to pay for medical bills that an insurance company has denied.

The helpful thing about going through the courts instead of dealing with insurance claims is that the California courts’ priority will be justice while an insurance company’s focus is saving money. Even if an insurance company denies a claim due to a technicality or some coverage loophole, the court can step in and ensure that the responsible party pays for your injuries. Furthermore, a lot of drivers have liability coverage, so a court judgment in your favor can often force the insurance company to pay after all.

Another advantage of personal injury claims is that they can provide a lot of essential compensation an insurance company would ignore. When you are in a car accident, you can deal with a lot more than just a few hospital bills. You also have all the extra financial losses associated with having to take time off work, arrange for childcare, or pay for help around the house. If your injuries are severe enough to disable you for a long period of time, you can also sue for things like lost earning potential. In addition to these financial damages, a lawsuit lets you recover damages for pain, suffering, trauma, and other mental damages.

Who Is Responsible for Paying Your Passenger Injury Claim?

In any car accident case, one of the big disputes is about responsibility. To win a settlement, you need to prove that the other party had a duty to you, failed to fulfill that duty, and acted in a way that directly contributed to your injuries.

The most common people to sue will be the people driving the vehicles. You have the right to sue both the person who was driving you and the person who was driving the other car. Depending on your situation, you can try suing one of the drivers or both of the drivers. In any passenger injury claim, you have a better chance of winning if the drivers broke the law. A driver who was speeding, driving under the influence, or rolling through stoplights has clearly failed in their duty to drive safely. However, even if the driver was following the rules of the road, if they did anything negligent, such as taking corners fast in the rain, you might have a case.

There are also unusual cases where other parties might be at fault. If you were riding in a taxi or other commercial service, the company might be responsible for your injuries. If a third party caused poor driving conditions, such as a person blowing leaves into the road or a business failing to fill potholes in their parking lot, you have the right to sue them as well. In rare incidents where a vehicle defect caused the accident, even the car company could be at fault. Usually, in a passenger injury claim, you will file against all people who are potentially at fault, and then the court will determine who bears the most responsibility.

Do Your Actions Affect the Lawsuit Outcome?

Most vehicle accident lawsuits spend time discussing which driver was at fault for the accident. However, in cases where it is a passenger suing one or both of the drivers, things are often more straightforward. Your actions usually won’t be scrutinized as closely because a person sitting quietly in the side or back seat can’t cause a big accident. Just keep in mind that there is a chance that the defendant will say you are partially responsible.

The most common way that your behavior might get discussed is if you did something that contributed to the accident. For example, if you blocked the driver’s view, startled them by screaming, or jerked on the steering wheel, you might be partially at fault. The defendants might also try to claim that you were partially responsible for your injuries even if you weren’t responsible for the accident. If you didn’t wear your seatbelt, ignored emergency responders’ requests to step away from the vehicle, or did something else that worsened your injuries, it might impact your lawsuit.

If your actions did potentially contribute to the damages, you still have hope for compensation. California law operates on the “pure comparative negligence” concept. In any accident lawsuit, the court looks at the evidence and assigns a percentage of fault to each involved party. When fault is assigned to the plaintiff, their settlement funds are reduced by an amount equal to that percentage.

So consider a case where you were riding in a car and didn’t have your seatbelt on. The court might award you $100,000 in damages, but then they might say the injuries were 10% your fault because you didn’t wear a seatbelt. Your settlement would be reduced by 10%, so you’d end up receiving $90,000. Unlike some states where you only get money if you were less than 50% at fault, California lets you still receive some compensation even if you were 99% responsible for the crash.

How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help With Your Claim?

If you are riding in a car that gets in an accident, it’s important to act fast. Your behavior right after the accident can make it easier to get the personal injury compensation you need. In any situation where you were in an accident, make sure to follow these steps:

      • Get insurance information from all the drivers on the scene

      • Take photos of the accident and ask for contact information from any people who witnessed the accident

      • Ask the police to send you a copy of the accident report

      • Go to the doctor to get a checkup even if you feel fine at first

      • Keep a record of all medical treatments you receive

      • Document lost wages or any other financial damage

      • File claims with both drivers’ insurance companies

      • Speak to a personal injury attorney about your case

    Consulting with a lawyer is one of the best things you can do. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate all the steps of managing the accident. They can help you file paperwork in a timely manner and ensure all important documentation is collected. If you do end up going to court, your lawyer’s input is invaluable. Their legal expertise helps you show proof of your injuries and explain why you deserve compensation.

    If you were riding in a car that got into an accident, turn to Avian Law Group. Our firm is one of the leading personal injury firms in the Burbank region. We’re known for providing professional, dedicated service for all sorts of vehicle accident cases. Our team also handles a broad range of other personal injury cases including fire damage, dog bites, and property damage. To learn more about our services, call 818-282-8400 or fill out our contact form.

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