Can A Passenger In a Car Accident Receive Compensation?
As the passenger in a vehicle, you have no control over what happens around you. You cannot act to prevent accidents, nor will your actions likely lead to one. Unfortunately, if you are involved in a car accident, that lack of control will not prevent you from suffering substantial injuries. You, like the driver of the vehicle, deserve compensation for your injuries—but how much should you expect? Read on to learn more from the experienced car accident attorneys at The Levin Firm.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim as a Passenger in a Car Accident
As the passenger in a car accident, you have the same right to file a claim as the driver of the vehicle. You may need to file your own, separate personal injury claim to seek compensation from the insurance company of the driver that caused the accident. You can also file a personal injury claim against the driver of your vehicle, if that driver caused or contributed to your accident.
An attorney from The Levin Firm can help put together your personal injury claim and collect evidence related to the accident. For example, an experienced personal injury attorney may help prove which driver caused the accident or identify any other factors that caused or contributed to the accident, including:
A mechanical failure. If a mechanical failure caused your accident, you may have grounds to file a personal injury claim against the manufacturer of the vehicle or the part that failed. While the owner of the vehicle must maintain that vehicle properly, including taking care of regular maintenance, a part that fails before its time, leading to an accident, can cause the vehicle manufacturer or the manufacturer of that part to bear liability for the accident.
If a mechanical failure resulted from a mechanic’s error, including a mechanic who improperly repaired the vehicle or one who failed to note the problem with the vehicle as part of an inspection or while doing other work nearby, that mechanic may also share liability for the accident.
An employer’s errors. Every day, many drivers in your area take to the road for commercial purposes. The driver may, for example, work as a delivery driver, or he may need to transport supplies to and from his workplace. Some drivers, including Uber and Lyft drivers, drive for a living. Big trucks fill many highways and interstates.
Ultimately, those drivers bear liability for all actions they take behind the wheel of those vehicles. The driver’s employer, however, may share liability if:
- The employer requires the driver to continue driving in unsafe conditions, including while the driver suffers from illness or inebriation that prevents him from safely operating the vehicle
- The employer requires the driver to exceed the federally mandated number of hours he can spend behind the wheel
- The employer does not properly maintain a vehicle retained for company use
- The employer continues to employ a driver who has caused multiple accidents in the past or who has a long history of moving violations that could have caused accidents
Identifying other parties who share liability for your accident can substantially increase the compensation you receive for your injuries. Working with an attorney can help you better identify those individuals and seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
How Much Compensation Should You Expect from Your Accident?
The compensation you should receive for your accident usually depends on two key factors: your financial losses related to the accident, and the means of the party liable for the accident.
Your Financial Losses
Severe injuries from an auto accident can leave you with substantial financial losses. Working with an attorney can help you calculate those losses and include them as part of your demand relating to the accident. You may include:
Your Medical Expenses
Medical expenses often mount quickly following an auto accident. Fortunately, you can seek compensation for a large percentage (or all) of those expenses, making it easier for you to pay your medical bills and keep your finances on track after the accident. Keep track of all medical expenses. Remember that you may receive multiple medical bills for some procedures, including emergency room treatment or surgery.
Your medical expenses may include:
Emergency treatment. Ambulance transport alone can prove expensive, especially if you needed emergency transport to a hospital some distance away from the accident. Typically, an ambulance will take you to an emergency room, where you will receive immediate care for your injuries. You may need to pay an emergency room bill as well as a bill for some scans and procedures, including x-rays or immediate surgery, needed as a result of your injuries.
Hospitalization. Many of the injuries suffered during an auto accident, including spinal cord damage, internal bleeding, or organ damage, may require hospitalization. You may find yourself admitted directly from the emergency room. Every day you stay in the hospital, your medical expenses may increase. Not only will you pay for your stay in the hospital, including a stay in the ICU if needed, you may also receive separate bills for follow-up procedures, including additional surgical treatments, during your hospital stay.
Scans, X-rays, and diagnostic procedures. To establish the extent of your injuries and follow the progress of your healing, your doctors will take multiple scans and tests that will help them diagnose the extent of your injuries and keep an eye on how you heal. These diagnostic procedures can add up substantially over time, especially if your doctors need to monitor your healing closely.
Procedures, including surgical treatment for your injuries. You may need several procedures to help aid in your recovery. Surgery, for example, may help repair internal bleeding or broken bones. You may face a separate bill for anesthesia as well as a bill from the surgeon and a facility fee for the use of the hospital during your surgery.
Durable medical equipment. You may need durable medical equipment to aid in mobility or to protect your body during your recovery, especially if you faced severe injuries. Crutches, braces, and wheelchairs may all count as durable medical equipment. The cost of this equipment may prove expensive, especially if you need durable medical equipment for long-term, rather than short-term, use.
Therapies. Following your injuries, you may need substantial therapy to aid you in making as full a recovery as possible. Therapy appointments may include:
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy will help restore strength and flexibility in your body following the accident. It can also help you maintain muscle tone when you can no longer move some of your limbs, as when you suffer paralysis due to spinal cord injury.
- Occupational therapy. Occupational therapy helps you relearn how to do tasks that you can no longer perform normally due to your injuries. For example, if you suffer a spinal cord injury, you may need to learn how to move yourself from your wheelchair to your bed and vice versa. If you suffer an arm amputation, you may need to relearn how to perform tasks with your non-dominant hand or how to perform two-handed tasks with one hand. Occupational therapy can help substantially restore your quality of life after an accident with severe injuries.
- Psychological therapy. Many victims of severe accidents need to go through psychological therapy to help them cope with their limitations or deal with the trauma from the accident. You may, for example, need to face symptoms of PTSD or deal with feelings of inadequacy or loneliness if your accident causes social isolation.
Modifications to your home or vehicle. If you suffer severe injuries that restrict your mobility, you may need to make modifications to your home that will make it easier for you to get around after your accident.
You may need, for example, to:
- Install a wheelchair ramp or ramps to make it easier to get in and out of your home
- Install a lift on interior stairs that will make it easier for you to get up and down
- Widen doorways throughout your home
- Renovate your bathroom to make it easier for you to take care of yourself despite mobility limitations
- Purchase a new vehicle modified to allow for hand controls or wheelchair access
Discuss your medical costs with an attorney to make sure you have included all of them as your attorney puts together your personal injury claim. Keep in mind that you may not have a full understanding of your medical bills until several weeks or even months after your car accident, since your medical expenses may increase if you suffer complications or setbacks in the healing process.
You may suffer injuries as the passenger in a car accident that prevents you from returning to work, either on a temporary or long-term basis. How much time you miss at work will depend on:
- The extent of your injuries. Severe injuries may prevent you from going back to work longer than more minor injuries.
- The type of injury you suffered. With some injuries, you can work from home or make modifications to your office or usual work responsibilities to make it easier for you to perform work tasks despite your injuries. Unfortunately, other injuries may prevent you from making those vital modifications.
- The type of work you perform. The type of work you perform can have a substantial impact on how much work you must miss due to injuries suffered as a passenger in a car accident. While you can easily modify some jobs or make accommodations that will make it easier for you to work, you may need to miss work in other positions longer. For example, if you work in a customer service role, you may return to work despite broken bones as long as you can perform your normal job tasks. On the other hand, if you work in a warehouse, broken bones might prevent you from working at all until you make a full recovery.
Talk to an attorney to learn more about what constitutes lost wages for you as the passenger in a car accident. You may need to include all time missed at work, including time missed due to appointments, therapies, and procedures, as well as time missed immediately after the injury.
Pain and Suffering
While most damages associated with an auto accident have quantifiable values, pain and suffering may prove more difficult to calculate. Working with an attorney will allow you to more easily include all the suffering you face as a result of your accident. Suffering may include physical pain along with emotional concerns such as loss of social interactions or missing out on activities that you planned to enjoy before your accident.
Who Caused Your Accident?
The amount of compensation you receive for your injuries as the passenger in a car accident may also depend on who caused your accident. In Pennsylvania, drivers must carry a minimum of $15,000 of bodily injury coverage for accidents caused by those drivers. Other parties, including commercial drivers, vehicle manufacturers, and mechanics, may carry higher-limit insurance policies that can increase the compensation you receive. Finding multiple parties who contributed to the accident can also increase the amount you receive for your injuries.
How Many People Suffered Injuries in Your Accident?
While Pennsylvania auto insurance provides a minimum of $15,000 coverage for a single individual injured in an accident, it may provide only $30,000 of coverage for everyone injured in that accident. As a passenger in a car accident, you may have to split benefits with the driver of the vehicle or other passengers in the car at the time of the accident. This may
reduce the compensation you, specifically, receive for your injuries.
If you suffered injuries as a passenger in an auto accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can help calculate the amount of compensation you may deserve for your injuries, as well as helping you pursue that compensation. Every case is unique, and it is almost impossible to calculate a potential claim for damages before working with an attorney to evaluate the extent of your injuries, the facts of the accident, and the potentially liable parties involved. Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as you can to discuss your accident and your legal right to compensation for your injuries.