When you take a peaceful car ride with your family or friends, you never anticipate your outing will end in an auto accident. Unfortunately, we can never predict when an accident will strike—especially as a passenger. If you were injured as a passenger in a car accident, you have a legal right to compensation for your injuries. Whether you choose to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver or seek compensation from whomever you were riding with, this is how to get a settlement for being an injured passenger in an accident.
Common Auto Accident Passenger Injuries
There are several frightening side effects of a car accident, particularly for a passenger. The rapid motion of a car crash can shatter glass or cause your body to painfully slamming into the car’s interior. Cuts or scrapes from the glass and contusions from impact are some of the most frequent passenger injuries. The force of impact is often responsible for back and neck injuries as well, such as whiplash, herniated discs, and torn or damaged muscles.
Other common auto accident injuries for passengers are broken bones—typically the arms, legs, hands, or feet. Your seat belt constricts upon impact and can cause cracked or broken ribs. If critical enough, seat belt constriction can cause trauma to the liver, lungs, spleen, or even heart. Head injuries are the most severe car accident injuries as a passenger, as the brunt of impact can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI), such as a concussion. If you feel extreme headaches or dizziness after a car accident, you must visit a medical professional.
Do Injured Passengers Have the Right to an Injury Claim?
As an injured passenger, you have rights in an auto accident claim. However, the process for receiving compensation for your injuries is slightly different than if you had been the driver of the vehicle. In most car accident scenarios, the Plaintiff—meaning the injured driver—has to prove the Defendant—the alleged negligent driver—was liable for the crash and the injuries. When a passenger is injured in an accident, liability is less of an issue.
A passenger wasn’t physically driving the vehicle, so, in most cases, they cannot be found at-fault for the incident. That means one or both of the drivers is responsible for the passenger’s injuries. So, one or both of the drivers will have to pay for the passenger’s damages. Most of the time, a passenger has the right to recover the entire amount of their damages.
Does Car Insurance Cover Passengers in a Claim?
Yes, car insurance does cover passengers in a claim. If you were injured as a passenger in a car accident, there are three separate insurance policies you can legally file through:
- The other driver in the accident
- The driver of the car you were a passenger in
- Your own car insurance
If you’re unsure which insurance policy you should file through, consider seeking legal guidance from a personal injury attorney.
Filing an Insurance Claim with the Other Driver’s Policy
Your first option for receiving compensation as an injured passenger is to file a car accident claim against the negligent driver. In most states, drivers must carry a minimum amount of liability coverage, including property damage liability and bodily injury (BI) liability. Bodily injury liability is meant to cover the accident injuries of anyone struck by the policyholder. However, the amount of compensation is limited by the number of people involved in the car crash and the total amount of the policy.
In Arizona, the state minimum for bodily injury liability is just $30,000 per car accident. In other words, if the individual responsible for the accident had only $30,000 worth of BI coverage, that amount would be split between the other driver and their passenger(s). The more passengers involved in the accident, the more each settlement amount is reduced. The other driver’s insurance may not have enough coverage to pay for your injuries as well as your friend’s or family member’s. In the worst case, your claim could be denied if there are no more insurance benefits available.
Filing an Insurance Claim With Your Friend’s Policy
If you cannot file a car accident claim with the at-fault driver, your next option is to file a claim with the driver of the car you were a passenger in. It’s important to not think of filing an injury claim against them as a lawsuit. Rather, you’re filing a claim on their insurance policy. You require a certain amount to cover your medical bills and lost wages. This is what insurance is for—to protect yourself and your loved ones from financial and physical harm.
You can choose to file through your friend or family member’s Personal Injury Protection or PIP coverage if they have it. Alternatively, you can file with their Medical Payments or MedPay benefits. These coverages are considered “first-party benefits” and cover all of the vehicle’s passengers, no matter who was at fault. Bear in mind, PIP coverage and MedPay are both optional policies in Arizona. Because they’re not required, there is a chance you’ll have to file against the driver’s bodily injury policy.
In this case, we advise you to work with a personal injury lawyer. They can help you file a lawsuit against the driver’s insurance company. Remember, it’s not a lawsuit against your friend or family member—do not take it personally.
Filing an Insurance Claim With Your Own Auto Policy
If filing against either driver’s insurance policy did not cover all of your damages, you could file a claim with your own insurance policy. If your policy features PIP or MedPay coverage, both could be used to pay for your medical costs, even though you were not driving at the time of the accident. Be aware that PIP and MedPay have limited benefits, so severe accident injuries may not be fully covered. Likewise, because you are personally filing a claim, there’s a chance your rates may increase.
If you have a health insurance policy, determine if that policy could cover a portion of your injury costs. Though you may need to exhaust your auto insurance benefits first, your health insurance can be a solid source of secondary coverage. Speak with your health insurance company before filing a personal injury claim to ensure you’re acting in your best interest.
Filing an Insurance Claim if Neither Party Has Car Insurance
What do you do if you’re a passenger in a car accident where neither driver has car insurance? First, check your own auto insurance policy. If you have PIP coverage, you can utilize it to compensate for the cost of your passenger injuries. Similarly, you may have purchased extra insurance called Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage.
UM, coverage protects you when the at-fault driver does not have any auto insurance. UIM coverage helps when the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to cover your accident-related expenses. Either UM or UIM coverage can be enacted as a passenger in a car accident to cover your medical expenses and lost wages.
Injured Passenger Compensation Estimates
If you were a passenger in a car accident, it’s difficult to put an exact number on your compensation without knowing all of the details. The amount of compensation you receive depends on whether you filed a suit against either driver or if you utilized your own insurance. Likewise, car accident compensation depends on the total amount of your damages.
- Damages for a passenger in a vehicle accident include:
- Total medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Future lost income
- Future medical costs
- Pain and suffering
Car accident cases with minor injuries—such as contusions or mild whiplash—can settle for approximately $3,000. More severe injury cases—such as broken bones, spinal damage, or a TBI—can reach a settlement amount of upwards of $250,000 or even $500,000.
Filing a Lawsuit After an Accident
If you have remaining damages after exhausting all insurance coverage, or if your personal injury claim is denied, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. In addition to your medical bills, you can seek compensation for lost wages and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. It’s important to remember that even as a passenger in the accident, you still have legal rights to compensation. A skilled accident attorney can review your case and help you file with the right party to ensure your best chance at recovering from your injuries.
Seek a Free Consultation with a Car Accident Attorney
Being an injured passenger in an auto accident can be a frightening ordeal, but the aftermath shouldn’t bring more pain. A personal injury law firm can help. They can access recent settlements and verdicts in your part of the country, and ensure you’re receiving your rightful compensation after an accident. Contact a car accident lawyer today for your free case evaluation.