As a passenger in a car accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries. Depending on the severity of the accident and the type of insurance coverage involved, you may be entitled to recover damages to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Car accident passengers have a clear advantage over drivers because there is no possibility they can be at fault for the accident. However, as a victim, they still need the help of a car accident lawyer to determine the at-fault party and file the appropriate claim. The amount of money a passenger can collect depends on various factors, including the severity of their injuries.
How Does No-Fault Coverage Impacts Passengers in a Car Accident?
When someone is involved in an accident in a no-fault state, the initial claim is generally taken care of by filing a claim with their own insurer. However, when someone is a passenger, the issue of filing a claim can become complicated.
Whether the driver of the vehicle the passenger was in is at fault or if fault can be established against the other driver, the passenger may file a third-party claim against the driver. Some factors that will help define the final settlement amount include the type of coverage the at-fault driver carries.
Some of these include:
- PIP coverage - PIP coverage, also known as Personal Injury Protection, is a type of insurance coverage available in certain states that helps cover the medical expenses and other costs associated with injuries resulting from car accidents. This type of coverage is usually required for all drivers, and it helps ensure that those injured in an auto accident can receive the initial medical care they need without having to pay out-of-pocket expenses. PIP coverage can also provide compensation for lost wages and other costs related to the accident.
- Bodily injury liability - Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) is a type of insurance that pays for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses resulting from an accident caused by another driver. If the other driver is found to be at fault for the accident, their BIL coverage will cover the costs of any bodily injury that a passenger may have suffered. This includes medical bills and lost wages and may include pain and suffering.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage - If someone is injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver, they may still be able to recover some compensation through their insurance policy. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is designed to protect victims in the event of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. This type of coverage provides compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other related costs resulting from the accident.
Types of Compensation a Passenger May Seek After a Car Accident
In nearly all cases, an auto accident passenger has no liability when involved in a car accident. However, they still have a financial loss due to the accident.
Some types of compensation a passenger may be entitled to collect following a car accident include:
- Medical expenses. Whether a car accident victim has medical insurance or not, they may still be required to pay certain out-of-pocket costs. There may be tests, medications, or specialists required to aid their recovery, which is not covered by their health insurance. Additionally, many victims may have to pay substantial copayments. A passenger should not have to bear these costs for an injury that occurred in an accident that was not their fault.
- Lost income. This is typically a significant portion of the damages a victim can collect. Anytime someone is injured in an accident, they will suffer lost wages during recovery. If an injury is serious, the victim may face a serious reduction in their potential future wages. These losses can be included in their claim. Vacation pay, benefits, bonuses, and other losses may also be included.
- Other expenses. some victims may require home modifications and in-home nursing care or may have to hire someone to handle chores they would have taken care of if not for their injury. These expenses are unforeseen and should be covered by the at-fault party, not the victim.
A car accident attorney can help victims understand their legal rights as a passenger. The amount of money a passenger can collect hinges on several factors that a skilled attorney can explain. Since no two accidents are identical, the unique circumstances of each case must be carefully evaluated to determine what a fair settlement looks like.
Does a Passenger in a Car Accident Need a Lawyer?
The two most important things a car accident victim should do is seek medical attention and seek legal advice. When someone suffers an injury in an accident that is not their fault, they have the right to seek advice from an attorney who can explain their rights and legal options.
Because of the complexity of filing a claim as a passenger, it is a good idea to seek legal guidance. Remember, the insurance company will not act in the interests of the victim. The goal of the insurer is to minimize their exposure by denying claims.
An experienced lawyer understands the complexities of personal injury law and can build a strong case on behalf of a victim. They can also advise victims of specific rules which help them understand how a claim is filed and processed. Lawyers can also assist by negotiating with the insurance company and ensuring the victim has someone advocating on their behalf to get the best possible settlement for their injuries.
It is important to remember that it is always a choice whether to hire a lawyer after a car accident as a passenger. However, an experienced attorney can help ensure the victims’ rights are protected and recover the full compensation they are entitled to for their injuries.
Passenger Injuries Which Can Occur in Car Accidents
When a car accident occurs, in most cases, passengers may be injured.
Most accident claims come from drivers, but there are passengers who suffer serious injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI). One of the most common causes of TBI is a car accident. More than 80,000 people annually suffer a TBI, which results in long-term disability.
- Back and spinal cord injuries. In the long term, spinal cord and back injuries can cause disabling pain in victims. Too often, a victim must live with pain for the rest of their life because a driver was not paying attention. Passengers who suffer these injuries are entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering.
- Bone and joint injuries. Knees, feet and ankles, shoulders, wrists, hands, and pelvis breaks are all possible when someone is a passenger in a car accident. These injuries can be temporarily debilitating and, in some cases, may require surgery to repair the damage. Victims will sometimes face lifelong joint pain due to their injuries.
- Internal and soft tissue injuries. The impact of a car accident can cause sprains, and bruising and may also damage muscles or ligaments. In addition, a victim may have hidden internal injuries to organs which could mean they are facing a life-threatening internal bleed. Internal injuries are one of the reasons why every car accident victim should seek immediate medical attention after an accident. These injuries are often invisible and could be overlooked by a victim.
These are only a small sample of the types of injuries a passenger in a vehicle could deal with after an accident. One should also not overlook the potential mental stress of an accident. Some passengers may even experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which could require treatment.
Passenger Claims and Insurance Adjusters
When a car accident victim is a passenger, they will have to deal with an insurance adjuster. When the victim is unaware of their rights, the adjuster may attempt to take advantage. Adjusters are not obligated to explain a victim’s rights to them, nor are they obligated to explain any laws to them. That is why a passenger in an auto accident should consult an attorney before filing a claim.
The more serious an injury a victim has suffered, the more likely they need legal representation. Lawyers with experience handling personal injury claims are well-versed in the various techniques an insurer will use to minimize the amount they must pay when they receive a claim.
An attorney can negotiate on behalf of a victim and ensure they are not taken advantage of in the process. All car accident victims should be aware that every insurance company has a legal team representing them to try and back their decisions to reduce or deny a claim.
Understanding the Benefits of Having an Attorney
Many passengers who suffer an injury in a car accident feel they can file a claim on their own since they were not at fault for the accident. While in a perfect world, this might be ideal, this is not generally the case.
Having a lawyer has numerous benefits, including:
- Rules and regulations. Few of us have an in-depth knowledge of insurance rules and regulations. We know what we are required to have for coverage, and we pay our insurer to ensure that we have that coverage. However, when it comes time to file a claim, the insurance company is not on the victim’s side. They are protecting their bottom line. A lawyer who handles car accidents has deep knowledge of the regulations which impact car accident victims.
- Calculating damages. Determining out-of-pocket losses following a car accident is straightforward. Victims can save their receipts and total them up before submitting a claim. However, if a victim requires long-term medical attention as a result of their injury, they must also have the capacity to determine the long-term costs associated with that care. A legal firm with experience handling serious injuries has access to experts for this purpose.
- Handling negotiations. Lawyers are skilled negotiators. Insurance companies know this. When someone is trying to represent themselves following a car accident, the insurance company will attempt to exploit their lack of knowledge and attempt to negotiate the lowest possible settlement. A personal injury attorney is negotiating on behalf of their client and can push for the maximum possible settlement.
Car accident victims are often reluctant to hire an attorney because of cost or if they think they will lose control over their case. Neither of these should be a concern. In nearly all cases, a car accident attorney works on a contingency fee basis. This means that the victim will only be required to pay for legal services if the attorney can secure a settlement on their behalf. While there may be other charges for specific services such as expert opinions or filing fees, there will be no legal fees.
The secondary concern is the loss of control over the insurance claim. This will not occur because lawyers must present every offer made by an insurance company to their clients. The victim always has the final say regarding whether a settlement offer is accepted. The victim’s lawyer may present the pros and cons of such an offer, but even when the attorney disagrees with the client, the client’s decision is final.
Contacting a Car Accident Attorney After an Accident
When a passenger in a car is in an accident, seeking advice from an attorney is always a smart move. Even if a victim feels they do not need a lawyer, there is no harm in getting a free case evaluation.
These consultations cost nothing and allow a car accident victim to better understand their legal options as a passenger in a car accident. Get your free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia as soon as possible to learn about your legal options as an injured passenger.