You’re injured in a car accident and it is clearly not your fault because you were not behind the wheel but merely an unfortunate passenger. Can you recover any money? How much? Do you sue someone or go through insurance?
The answers to these questions will depend in part on state statutes — each locale has its own laws governing car accidents, insurance coverage, and negligence lawsuits. Additional major factors are the severity of the accident and extent of injury. Let’s look at who might be liable when you’re injured as a passenger.
As a third-party claimant injured while riding, you may be able to recover your medical expenses and more from any or all drivers to the extent of their coverage and depending on how or if fault is determined. Some states have no-fault laws requiring drivers to carry injury coverage in the case of accidents and fault may not be a consideration.
But if you are related to the driver, then you likely cannot claim as a third party and that may impact the process for recovering expenses. It might also impede your ability to recover altogether.
Much will depend on the details of applicable laws, the accident, and the drivers’ insurance policies, so generalizations are difficult to make. Still, you should certainly inquire into making a third-party claim with the insurers of however many drivers were involved in the accident and attempt to recover to the extent that coverage allows.
Suing for Negligence
In very severe injury cases an insurance claim will not cover all of the damages. This is when you should sue for recovery. If you cannot work anymore or were out of work for a long while and are looking at a lifetime of medical care due to the negligence of another, a negligence claim may indeed be appropriate and successful.
How much you can get depends on your actual damages and to some extent who the defendants are. Cases cannot be assessed in the abstract.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in an accident, whether as a driver or passenger, talk to a lawyer. Tell your story and find out if you have a claim. Many personal injury attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case.
- Injured in a car accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury)
- Car Insurance Claims: Dos and Don’ts (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- After a Car Accident: First Steps (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- Liability: Proving Fault in a Car Crash (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)