We’re a society on the go: a 2016 census estimated that there were about 1.8 cars per household in the U.S. that year. But, that mobility comes at a cost. In 2017, over 4.5 million people were hurt in auto accidents badly enough to require medical help. Such injuries can be traumatic, even life-changing. How do you get back on your feet, medically and financially, after a car crash? How do you begin to recover?
If there is any good news in such a situation, it’s this: as a passenger, you may have the right to recover the full extent of your damages. If you are a passenger in a car that strikes a stationary object (like a telephone pole or even a parked vehicle), you can file a claim against the driver of the car in which you are riding. Your chances for recovery are good, even if you are in an accident involving two or more drivers. While the drivers may be embroiled in a dispute over who caused the crash, you can file a claim against the insurance policies of all drivers involved, including the driver of the car in which you were a passenger. The parties’ insurance companies can then debate about comparative negligence, that is, how to apportion responsibility for the crash. In a comparative negligence analysis, a driver who is found to be 60 percent responsible for the accident can recover only 40 percent of his or her damages, but as a passenger, you may be able to recover all of your damages. This means that you can still collect from the driver who was less at fault because both drivers were responsible for the crash.
Of course, your ability to recover may be complicated by other factors. For example, if you are related to the driver of the car, you may not be entitled to a separate recovery because the insurance company will not pay against its own claim. Also, if you were somehow responsible for the accident – say, you seized the driver’s arm or obscured the driver’s vision – your recovery would be limited by your proportional liability. The analysis of liability and recovery also changes if you are in a no-fault state, like Michigan or New Jersey. If you are in a no-fault state, you must file a claim with your own insurance rather than the driver’s.
However, in some cases, your damages may exceed the coverage of any party’s insurance policy. In those circumstances, you might consider filing a lawsuit. Injuries in a car crash are treated like other personal injury claims. As a passenger, you would have to establish that
- The driver had a duty towards you (a duty to drive safely).
- The driver breached that duty by failing to make reasonable decisions and avoid a crash.
- You were injured.
- The injury was a result of the driver’s actions.
In a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to recover for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and even emotional distress.
If you have been injured in a car accident and have further questions about how to secure your rights, give us a call or send us an email. We’re here to help you get back on your feet again.