Car accident passengers are in a tricky position in terms of liability: It can be difficult to determine whether they should fault the driver of the vehicle they were in or the other motorist(s) involved in the crash. According to an important video provided by the Virginia car accident lawyers at Rutter Mills, regardless of who is at fault, it is crucial to be familiar with your rights as the passenger. The process of securing compensation will differ from what you would expect as the driver.
What to Do When You’re a Passenger in a Car Accident
Your responsibilities immediately following a car accident will be similar to those of the drivers’. Understand that you have the right to file a claim for any damages you incurred in the crash, so you must collect as much evidence as possible that reflects all possible details of the incident and your role in it. Using the steps below, you can begin to build your case against the individual responsible for your damages and injuries:
- Contact the police. You will need to file a police report immediately after the crash. The responding officers will document all information about the case, including the environmental conditions, names of all parties involved, identification of the vehicles, and more. The officers will also gather statements about the crash from each affected party, including yourself. Rest assured that the document will reflect that you were a passenger. Remember that you have the right to obtain a copy of the police report.
- Collect your own evidence from the crash scene. Exercising your right to file a claim against those responsible for the crash requires that you can provide clear evidence of the other parties’ fault, as well as your injuries and property damage. You should take as many photos and videos of the scene as possible, and write down everything you recall about the events leading up to the crash. As the passenger, you may have been able to see certain things unfold that the driver could not. Your perspective should not only be recorded in the police statement but in your personal records as well. Gather any witness’ contact information as well, since they can attest to your position as the passenger in the crash.
- Go to the hospital. Whether you feel hurt or not, you must seek medical attention. Many injuries do not present symptoms right away and may worsen if untreated. Further, in order to defend your right to receive reimbursement for medical expenses, you must demonstrate the extent of your injuries after the crash, and the cost of treating them.
All the above steps are critical to exercising your right to recover monetary damages from the at-fault party. Without them, you risk the denial of compensation, as you will lack critical documentation that reflects the manner and extent to which you were affected by the crash. After completing these steps, you should prepare to file a third-party injury claim under the negligent driver’s insurance policy.
Filing Your Claim as a Passenger in an Auto Accident
Here is where you must know more of your rights as the passenger in this collision. Firstly, you are not obligated to provide proof of liability. Whether you were in a single-car or multi-car crash, the burden of proof lies on one of the drivers, as they are the individuals at risk of being held liable.
Know that in most single-car accidents, the fault (and therefore, the responsibility for compensation) will automatically be assigned to the driver of the car you were riding in. There may be exceptions if environmental causes were to blame. In this case, speak with a car accident lawyer, as the claims process may change.
If you are unable to file a claim through the sole driver’s insurance, you may be able to secure coverage under your own personal injury protection (PIP), if you own an auto insurance policy. In this case, review the details of your policy and your state laws, as you may be required to seek medical treatment within a specific period to qualify for reimbursement.
As mentioned above, you can file a claim under the negligent driver’s insurance in the case of a multi-car accident. However, these circumstances may also result in shared liability. In this case, you have the right to seek compensation from each individual who held partial liability in the crash. This might be ideal if you sustained severe injuries for which the medical treatment exceeds either the at-fault party’s policy limits. If this is still not enough, you may be able to find relief in your underinsured motorist (UIM) policy.
Lastly, if you discover that none of the drivers involved in the crash have insurance, then you also have the option of securing compensation through uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. No matter which of these policies you use to cover your economic losses, you have the right to include any and all of the following in your claim:
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced earning capacity or lost wages
- Bodily injury
- Property damage
Navigating the claims process as a passenger can be tough. As you can see, there are numerous methods you can use to file a claim and cover the expenses you incurred in the crash. To make this process easier, it is best that you exercise your right to legal representation. Hiring a car accident lawyer can substantially improve your chances of securing the funds you need to treat your injuries and repair or replace any damaged possessions.
Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate your case to demonstrate your innocence in the crash clearly, and defend all your rights as a passenger. If you sustained any of the damages discussed here as a result of the collision, whether it involved one or multiple vehicles, get in contact with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. They will walk you through each step of the litigation process and simplify all these steps to minimize your stress as you progress toward recovery.