Despite enormous efforts to improve roadway infrastructure, develop protective technologies, and provide educational tools, motor vehicle accidents continue to be one of the leading causes of death and traumatic injuries for the last several decades.
While the front and rear-seat passengers are less likely to suffer injuries in a car accident compared to drivers, they can and do happen on a regular basis.
Passengers sitting in the front seat are much more likely to suffer serious injuries than a passenger sitting in the second or third row of a vehicle. One study found that front-seat passengers also have a slightly higher mortality rate in crashes than drivers.
Rear-seat passengers were found to be at a greater risk of traumatic brain injuries. And regardless of seating, passengers were more likely to suffer abdominal injuries compared to the driver.
No matter where you sit inside a vehicle, the moments during and after a wreck can be scary and confusing, especially when you’ve been seriously hurt.
Fortunately, you may be able to file a personal injury claim with the insurance company. Which insurance company you file with will depend on who is found responsible (at fault) for the accident.
After Determining Fault, File a Personal Injury Claim
After a car accident occurs, insurance companies want to know who was at fault for the wreck. This determines whether or not they must cover any costs associated with the wreck, including property damage and medical bills.
As a passenger in a crash, there are a few avenues you may take depending on who is determined to be at fault:
1: You can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance.
This option may be available if you were injured by another driver. They may have rear-ended the vehicle or caused a t-bone accident after running a traffic light or sign.
In Georgia and nearly every other state, drivers are required to have car insurance. The insurance policy covers two kinds of liability: bodily injury (BI) (which pays for medical bills) and property damage (PD) (which pays for any damaged possessions).
Things can get complicated, however, if more than one person was injured in the wreck or the person at fault is unclear. Insurance companies do not like paying out large sums of money, no matter how injured a person is, and may drag the process out for months.
It may be beneficial to hire a lawyer to advocate on your behalf and protect your passenger injury settlement.
2: You can file a claim through your driver’s insurance.
Sometimes the driver of the vehicle a passenger is riding in makes a mistake or acts recklessly. They could have been speeding and lost control, leading to a rollover accident. Or they passed out due to fatigue or an illness, which caused the crash.
Even if your driver wasn’t at fault for the accident, you still may be able to file a claim through their policy to help cover your bills. The main way to do this is through the driver’s medical payments coverage (MedPay). MedPay covers all passengers in the car for their medical expenses.
However, MedPay coverage isn’t mandatory, and even if the driver does have it, the amount may not be enough to cover all of your medical costs. If this is the case, you could file through their liability insurance (as long as the driver is a non-immediate family member).
You might feel hesitant to pursue this option because if the driver is a friend or relative, it will cause their insurance rates to go up. Understand that you aren’t going after them personally; you are only seeking compensation from their insurance company. After filing a claim, everything that happens afterward is between you and the insurance adjuster.
3: You file a claim with your own insurance.
In some cases, the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, or has a limited policy. Filing a claim under your own policy may help cover expenses related to your injury.
If you have MedPay coverage for your own vehicle, you can use it to cover your hospital expenses, even if you were injured in someone else’s car. This is part of what makes this insurance add-on so valuable.
If your auto insurance benefits run out, you can also tap into your health insurance to help cover medical costs. Double-check with your insurer first, as you may need to pay the deductible before receiving your health benefits.
Lastly, many drivers are uninsured. Without insurance, there’s no way to be compensated for your injuries and expenses. However, having uninsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy can help protect you from this outcome.
Proving Bodily Injury After a Car Accident
It’s not enough to file a claim for personal injury with the auto insurance company after a car accident. You have to prove to the insurance adjuster that you were injured.
But even if you suffered a severe injury such as traumatic brain injury or broken leg, they still may try to deny, delay, or downplay your claim.
How can you put yourself in the best position to support your personal injury case?
Collect documentation. This includes photos, all medical bills, receipts, accident reports, and any other piece of data and information related to the crash and your medical treatment. Keep a journal of how the accident and your injury have affected your daily life.
The insurance company will have a much more difficult time ignoring your personal injury claim if you provide them with overwhelming evidence.
But even if you stay on top of everything, the insurance companies may find ways to circumvent your claim through legal technicalities or getting you to say something that undermines your case during a recorded statement.
To avoid these pitfalls, we recommend talking to a lawyer that specializes in personal injury and auto accidents.
How Passengers Can Protect Themselves
While a passenger may not have any control over the vehicle, there are key actions they can take to maximize their safety.
- Wear a seat belt. It has been proven in multiple studies that wearing a safety belt can significantly reduce the chance of injury in a crash. Some passengers make the mistake of thinking since they aren’t in the front row that they don’t need to wear one. Not wearing a seat belt puts more than just the individual at risk of being thrown from the vehicle during a crash — they could slam into the passenger or driver seat, crushing the person in front of them. Or they could jerk into other passengers next to them on the same row.
- Don’t get into a vehicle with a drunk, high, or fatigued driver. A person puts their well-being and life at risk if they travel with an impaired driver. If you have a license and are old enough, offer to drive instead. If you don’t have a license, are too young to drive, or are uncomfortable operating the vehicle or being with the impaired person, ask someone else for a ride or use a rideshare/taxi.
- Don’t distract the driver. Passenger distraction causes many distracted driving accidents. Insist the driver stays focused on the road instead of turning to look at someone during a conversation. Help the driver operate internal electronics and navigation apps. Avoid annoying disturbances, emotional confrontations, or grabbing them.
Who Can Help If You Have Questions?
If you or someone you know was a passenger injured in a car accident, they probably have urgent questions. They are likely emotionally overwhelmed or stunned and aren’t sure what to do next.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers help passengers involved in an accident with their insurance claims. We understand how to help victims who are hurting, guiding them through the process step by step to receive the settlement they deserve.
Whether you were riding with a friend or a passenger in a rideshare vehicle or taxi when you were injured, we are here to serve and get you back on your track with your life. Contact us online or at (770) 934-8000 to get started.