car accidentMost blogs regarding car accidents address what car accident lawyers can do for the drivers of a car who are injured.  But what if you were the passenger of a car that was involved in a car accident?  While the way your claim is handled may be similar, there are still a few differences that you should be aware of, if you were an injured passenger.  Some of the legal issues that arise are unique to passengers.  Your car accident lawyer can help to steer you through your legal claims.

Who is required to pay for your medical expenses?

If you own a vehicle of your own and you have Personal Injury Protection insurance (PIP), your own auto insurance company will pay for your medical expenses under your PIP coverage. In some states, PIP coverage is mandatory, but in both Arkansas and Missouri it is optional.  Depending on the laws in your state, there may be certain requirements you must meet in order to make a claim under your PIP coverage.  If you don’t have auto insurance, or you don’t have PIP coverage, then the insurance carrier for either the driver of the vehicle you were in, or the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier, will likely pay the claim.

Determining who is at fault

Your car accident lawyer will be able to help you determine who is at fault for the injuries you sustained in the car accident.  The majority of the time, the passengers in a car are not the cause of the accident.  So, the question will be whether the driver of your car or the driver of the other car is at fault. The good news is, no matter who is determined to be at fault, that person’s auto insurance company will be required to compensate you for your damages.  The determination of liability is not always easy.  Every accident is different and, proving who is at fault may not always be obvious.  That is where your car accident lawyer can help you to investigate the accident and determine who should be held liable.

How to make a claim for damages following a car accident

In order to get the ball rolling, you first need to make an insurance claim with the at-fault driver.  Even if that driver turns out to be your friend, you must make an official claim with their insurance company in order to be compensated fully for the damages you sustained.  Making a claim as a passenger is somewhat different.  It may be a little more difficult to obtain the information you need to make a claim.  While the drivers involved in an accident exchange relevant information, you may need to obtain a copy of the police report in order to bet the information you need.  Sometimes passengers can get caught in the crossfire of the insurance companies who will both claim their insured was at fault.  In order to protect yourself, you may need to file claims with both drivers’ insurance carriers.

Passengers should get their own car accident lawyer

While it might seem easier to let the lawyer representing the driver of your vehicle represent you too, that is not necessarily the best idea. For one thing, if it turns out that the driver of the car you were in is at fault, then you cannot have the same lawyer.  That would be a conflict of interest.  Every car accident case is different, so find a car accident lawyer that will represent your legal interests.

Passengers can be partially at fault for their injuries

While it is most often the case that a passenger is not at fault in a car accident, there are a few narrow exceptions to this rule.  First, passengers, like drivers, are required to use reasonable care for their own safety.  That would include wearing a seat belt.  So, if your injuries were more severe because you did not fasten your seat belt, then the court could find that you are partially responsible for your injuries.  This is often referred to as comparative negligence, which could limit or even eliminate your damages in a car accident case.  Also, if you knew that your driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident, but you still agreed to be a passenger, you may be found to have assumed the risk of being injured in that situation.
Car accident cases must be analyzed under the specific circumstances of each case.  If you have questions regarding car accidents, or any other personal injury concerns, contact us online or call the Cottrell Law Office at 888-612-0583.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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