Just because you were a passenger in an auto accident doesn’t mean you can’t take the driver’s seat in your insurance claims. If you are injured as a passenger when riding in a taxi or a privately owned car, you can file a personal injury claim.
In fact, in most cases passengers have an easier case than the driver. Passengers are not expected to prove liability because one or more of the drivers will be held liable. If the accident involved more than one car, the police, insurance companies, and sometimes the court will establish who was at fault. That person’s insurance company will be responsible for compensating you.
Here’s what you need to know.
Determining who was at fault and to what degree
If the driver hit a post or a tree, the general rule is that he or she did something wrong that amounts to negligence. However, there are several exceptions. If the driver was driving responsibly and a deer bolted into the road, the driver can be deemed not liable.
If two or more drivers are involved, one or more drivers can be found liable for the accident. This is where it gets complicated.
Arizona follows the doctrine of comparative fault. This means drivers can be deemed at-fault for a percentage of the accident. For example, one driver may be 70 percent to blame and the other 30 percent responsible. So the first driver’s insurance company will pay 70 percent of the damages, and the second driver’s insurance company 30 percent of the damages to the injured parties. It is not uncommon for the drivers’ insurance companies to disagree on how much their respective drivers were liable.
On the plus side, as a passenger you cannot be deemed liable for the accident. However, if you got into the vehicle knowing the driver was impaired by drugs or alcohol, your insurance company may deny your claim. They will say you knowingly chose to risk riding with an intoxicated person.
Negotiating with two drivers’ insurance adjustors can be a nightmare. In this situation, it is smart to enlist the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. The lawyer will assess the merits of the case and give you advice on the appropriate course of action.
Filing a claim as a passenger
To cover your medical bills, you can file a claim against the medical coverage part of your auto insurance policy. However, if you sustained severe injuries and do not have enough coverage to pay for your medical bills, you can also file a claim against the at-fault driver(s). You should also file a claim if you are temporarily or permanently unable to work, you are permanently disabled, or if the insurance company is refusing to pay your bills. Also note that the medical coverage part of your auto insurance policy will not cover pain and suffering.
Remember that you are really filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. So don’t let it deter you if the at-fault driver was your friend. You won’t be making your friend pay your bills. It gets trickier if the driver is your family member. The insurance company may not allow you to file a claim against a family member’s liability insurance.
A passenger claim follows the same path as a regular car accident claim. You can be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and pain and suffering. For more information about what damages and compensation you could be entitled to, read our article here.
What to do after the accident
It is protocol for drivers involved in an accident to get the contact information and insurance details of the other driver(s). If you are a passenger involved in an accident, you should obtain both drivers’ contact information and insurance information.
Take photographs of the vehicles (make sure to photograph the passenger side), the area surrounding the vehicles, the road conditions, and your injuries. Seek out witnesses and interview them if possible. At least get their contact information so you or your attorney can contact them later. Seek medical attention, even if you don’t feel you’ve been seriously injured. Accidents are traumatic, and adrenaline can delay the onset of symptoms for conditions such as whiplash. If you avoid getting immediate medical attention and later wish to include injuries in your claim, you may not be able to include them.
For more detailed information about what to do after an auto accident, read our guide here.
Before you agree to any settlement with a driver’s insurance company, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Insurance companies will try to give you as little reimbursement as possible. An attorney can help you get the maximum compensation. The Lamber-Goodnow Personal Injury Law Team offers free, no-obligation consultations for accident victims. We get paid only when you get paid.