I was a passenger in a car accident – can I file a personal injury claim?

I was a passenger in a car accident – can I file a personal injury claim?

When car accident injuries occur, we often think of the drivers involved, but multiple people could occupy each car.

If you want to figure out how to file a car accident claim after you or your loved one were injured as passengers, the answer depends on which driver caused the crash, whose car you rode in, and if the owners drove their respective cars.

The complex car accident injury claims process will require investigating and gathering evidence and statements. You must file your claim as quickly as possible, but in many situations, the stress of attempting such an undertaking can aggravate your accident injuries. Discussing your car accident claim with experienced accident injury lawyers can improve the outcome of your legal claim and physical recovery.

Car Accident Claim as a Passenger Guide

Police Reports

When a car accident injures you as a passenger, you may not know exactly how the accident occurred and who caused it. The police report will give a preliminary determination of the party at fault for the accident and should describe the accident scene in detail. Most police departments will ask you to provide an ID.

Car accident injury lawyers can generally get this and other documents for you. When you work with the right attorney, they can conduct a thorough investigation collecting documents, statements, medical care records, bills, and any other relevant records or evidence. 

Negligent Driver At-Fault

All drivers on the road have a legal obligation to use reasonable care to prevent damages and injuries. The duty of care is the first element that must be proven for a negligence claim. The second element is that the defendant must have breached the duty of care and, finally, that the breach caused the injuries the victim suffered. When drivers neglect their duty and injuries occur, they can be said to be at fault for the injuries.

The driver at fault may have broken the law and may face criminal charges, but the criminal court does not handle matters of compensation, injuries, and damages. Compensation for injuries and damages must be handled through an insurance claim and, when necessary, a claim in civil court.

Types of Compensation for Injured Car Accident Passengers

How to File a Car Accident Claim as a Passenger

Injured car accident passengers can claim compensation for their injuries and damages. Compensation is classified as compensatory, paid for economic and non-economic losses resulting from the accident, or punitive damages.

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Compensatory Damages

The defendant or their insurance company pays compensatory damages. These amounts are meant to cover the losses and damages the other parties suffered due to the defendant's negligence. They can further be broken down into economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages include medical care costs, current and future lost income, property repair or replacement, and other damages with exact dollar values. The value of economic damages can easily be calculated and verified with documents like medical bills and income statements.

Non-economic damages include injuries that are not tangible, like pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, and other hard-to-quantify amounts. Calculating this value is more difficult because these damages are not exact dollar values and are harder to prove through documentation.

Punitive Damages

The court may add punitive damages to the plaintiff's compensation if the court finds the negligent driver acted with gross disregard for those around them. This compensation does not replace anything but punishes the negligent party. 

Insurance Claims Options for Passengers After Car Accident Injuries

The steps you take to recover compensation for your injuries depend on whether you live in an at-fault or no-fault state. At-fault states will require that you file a claim with the insurance company of the driver deemed at-fault.

If the insurance company will not pay you fair compensation, you may need to file a civil claim against the at-fault driver. In a no-fault state, you may receive compensation from your driver's personal injury protection plan. Passengers have some options for compensation recovery for injuries due to a car accident.

Third-Party Liability Claims

In at-fault states, injured car accident passengers can file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company. If your driver is a close relative or spouse and they caused the crash, you may not recover liability compensation because their policy may cover you. If so, you may recover economic damages.

If the at-fault driver does not have enough coverage to pay the full amount of your claim, you may file a claim with both drivers' policies. If you settle, it may cover your economic and non-economic damages.

PIP and MedPay Policies

Drivers must carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in no-fault states. PIP covers the injuries and damages of the driver that pays for the policy, no matter who caused the accident.

As a passenger, you may get compensation through your driver's PIP or MedPay policy to pay medical bills and prescription costs.

If you have PIP or MedPay coverage, you must file a claim with your company. These policies only pay medical care and prescription costs and a few other things. If your injuries exceed your policy limits, your lawyer can file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer.

Personal Health Insurance

Your health insurance can cover the cost of medical care for your car accident injuries but not other damages.

Under or Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Most states offer optional under or uninsured motorist coverage, which can cover damages beyond the amount the other driver's policy will cover. If one or both drivers are uninsured, the policy will cover damages, which does not account for non-economic or punitive damages.

What Mistakes Should Injured Car Accident Passengers Avoid?

Injured car accident passengers must avoid these mistakes, which could make claims harder to prove.

  • Do not talk to insurance adjusters without being advised to do so by your lawyer.
  • Do not admit fault of any degree; insurance adjusters may trick you into saying the insured driver was not at fault to reduce their client's liability.
  • Do not wait to file your claim, as the statute of limitations could run out, and witnesses could become harder to find.
  • Do not accept the first offer or any settlement offer that does not provide you with fair compensation.
  • Only file a personal injury claim after consulting a lawyer with experience negotiating with insurance companies.

Insurance Adjuster Negotiations

Claimants often comment how nice insurance adjusters are when they first call, do not be fooled. Insurance adjusters work for insurance companies; their job is to reduce the financial liability of their company. They may seem friendly, but insurance adjusters are not your friends. Early settlement offers will nearly always be well below the amount requested. Injury lawyers often have to handle negotiations with insurance adjusters and are often skilled at working with adjusters to reach a settlement agreement that fairly compensates you.

Reaching a Settlement

Many claims can be settled outside of court through negotiations with insurance adjusters. Still, there is no guarantee that negotiations will reach a settlement amount that both sides can agree on. When no settlement amount can be arranged, the claim will need to be decided by a judge at a court hearing.

Accident injury lawyers are familiar with insurance claims adjusters' tactics, like offering meager amounts. Accepting a settlement amount is tricky because if you accept an amount that is too low, there is no way to return and try again.

Claim Valuation

Valuing your claim should be done with consideration for future care and needs as well as current care, as long as it is the direct result of the accident. An accident injury lawyer can connect you with local medical and financial experts who can help guide your calculations and that can testify to future care needs you may have.

Civil Claims Court Hearing

A civil claims court hearing allows both parties to present the claim. The claimant must show that the defendant more likely than not was negligent and caused injuries. The burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt only applies to criminal court hearings. The defense can present any additional information once the judge has heard the civil claim.

The judge or jury will then decide the civil claim. The court may add punitive damages.

The terms of the judgment will declare the amount of compensation and how the defense must pay it. When the compensation exceeds policy limits, the defendant must pay the remainder of the judgment unless another policy provides relief.

Passengers May Need to File Multiple Accident Injury Claims

Multiple accident injury claims may be necessary if there is more than one at-fault party or if the compensation amount exceeds the policy limits, and a secondary company must cover the excess amount.

A passenger injured in a car accident may need to file claims with one or both driver's policies, the car owner's policies, if other than the driver, their policies, or any combination of these. In some cases, the insurance company may be responsible for paying the full amount of compensation, including what exceeds policy limits, if a judgment is necessary.

When Multiple Passengers Are Injured In a Car Accident

The amount of compensation can add up quickly, especially if the injuries are severe and long-term. Compensation for just one severely injured passenger can exceed policy limits. When multiple passengers are injured in a car accident, they may each receive some portion of the compensation ordered, and the rest may be recoverable if the defendant has property or assets of value.

When you contact a personal injury attorney you can schedule a free consultation to discuss the options available for getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries. When you choose the right attorney, you will be able to take the time you need to heal, and you can rest easy knowing that you have knowledgeable and compassionate advocates on your side.

Consultations are often free with no obligation, and personal injury attorneys typically take cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that if you cannot be compensated, you owe them nothing.

The contingency fee allows you to get legal assistance with your claim even if you cannot afford it at the time, and it ensures that injury lawyers do not encourage claimants to proceed with claims they cannot win. Every claim is different, but a skilled injury lawyer can make filing a claim easier, and the compensation you receive will ease the burden of your injuries.

Trust Guss Injury Lawyers
12777 Jones Rd
Houston, TX 77070
(281) 317-0883