Can Passengers in a Car Accident Get Compensation?
Reviewed by Carina Jenkins, J.D.
In 2021, nearly 47,000 Americans perished in auto accidents. Even if an accident isn't fatal, it can cause serious injuries, making it difficult for victims to work, care for children and do the things they love.
Auto accidents may also lead to financial devastation, especially if you can't work and have a lot of medical bills due to your injuries. Fortunately, the law allows for a passenger in a car accident to recover damages from whomever caused the crash.
If you're injured, the first step is to seek medical attention. You may need to call an ambulance or have someone drive you to the nearest hospital or urgent care center. No matter how you feel in the aftermath of a crash, it's important not to skip this step. You may have injuries that aren't immediately apparent. Additionally, the information gathered during a medical exam can help you negotiate with insurance companies or prove your claim in court.
Once you address your immediate needs, take time to document the damage to the vehicle and any property you had in it. Make sure you take photos from multiple angles. Otherwise, insurance adjusters, attorneys or jurors may not be able to see the true extent of the damage. It's even better if you can record video of the damage, as video may make it easier to see small cracks and dents.
Finally, write down everything you can remember about the accident. Include details such as what time the crash occurred, what the weather conditions were like and whether there were any visible road hazards. Make note of any unsafe behaviors you observed, such as speeding or running red lights. Use this information to file an accident report with your local police department. If the accident occurred outside your hometown, file the report in that jurisdiction.
As a passenger in a car accident, you can file a claim with your driver's insurance company, the other driver's insurance company or both. The process varies based on what type of insurance your driver has. For example, if they have personal injury protection (PIP), you may be able to recover compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and/or loss of income.
Unfortunately, not every state requires PIP, so your driver may not have this type of coverage. Another option is to file a claim with your driver's liability insurance. This type of insurance covers property damage and medical expenses when a driver is found at fault for an auto accident.
If you decide to file a claim with the other driver's insurance company, you may be able to recover under their property damage liability or bodily injury liability coverage. Note that some drivers choose to carry the minimum amount of liability insurance required under law, so their insurance limits may not cover your accident-related expenses in full. It's also possible to get into an accident with an uninsured driver, leaving you with fewer options when it comes to recovering money.
To file an insurance claim, follow these steps:
1. Contact the insurance company. Before you call, make sure you have the name, address and telephone number of the driver. You'll also need the policy number.
2. Provide details about the accident, such as when it occurred and what conditions contributed to it.
3. Submit a copy of the accident report.
4. Provide copies of your accident photos and/or video recordings.
5. Respond quickly to any phone calls or emails from the insurance company.
6. Submit additional information as requested.
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If the insurance company doesn't offer enough to cover your expenses, you may want to file a lawsuit. Although you're allowed to represent yourself, it's best to hire an attorney with extensive experience in auto accident cases. Once you have representation, the filing process usually goes like this:
1. Draft a complaint. This document explains why you're filing the lawsuit.
2. Serve the complaint to the driver. Proper service makes the other person aware of the lawsuit.
3. Attempt to negotiate a settlement. To avoid going to trial, the other driver may offer you a settlement. If you receive an offer, discuss it with your attorney. Don't respond without getting professional legal advice.
4. Prepare for trial. If you can't agree on a settlement amount, your case may go to trial. 5. This is when both sides present evidence to a jury.
6. Make your case at trial.
Yes. If you're in an auto accident while riding with someone else, you can sue that person and try to recover damages.
Yes. If you're a passenger in an auto accident, settlement options increase if you file a lawsuit against the driver of the other car.
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