Can I Receive Compensation for My Injuries if I Was a Passenger in a Car Accident?
While most car collisions bring to mind injured drivers, car passengers are equally likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries too. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that front-row passengers account for the majority (83%) of all non-driver fatalities in car accidents.
So what happens if you’re the passenger injured in a car collision? Do you have the right to file suit, and whose insurance company is responsible for your medical bills?
Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions from injured passengers.
As An Injured Passenger, Who is Responsible for My Medical Bills?
In the state of South Carolina, passengers who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident have the right to file a claim against the at-fault driver. Typically, the at-fault driver’s insurance company compensates you for your injuries and damages. This means you have the right to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party after a car wreck.
If the person responsible for the wreck was the driver you were with at the time of the accident, it still means that their insurance company is whom you would file a claim with.
Because the driver you’re with is often a close family member or friend, you may feel conflicted about filing suit with them. However, it’s important to keep in mind that incidents like these are the reason they pay a monthly insurance premium to protect them against paying the full amount of damages, so it’s still essential to receive reimbursement for your own damages too.
What Am I Eligible to Receive Compensation for?
Any passenger who is injured in an automobile accident can seek financial compensation for the following:
Economic damages are anything with a clear financial value attached to them, including medical bills, lost work wages, property damage, and car repairs.
Non-economic damages do not have an inherent value attached to them but are eligible for compensation. This includes damages such as emotional pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
What Factors Affect the Full Value of My Insurance Claim?
Though rare, a passenger may sometimes partake in risky behaviors like refusing to wear a seatbelt that jeopardizes their safety during a car accident. But can this be used against them during the claims process?
In South Carolina, the answer is yes; a passenger can be partially responsible for their accident and injuries due to the comparative fault principle. However, the good news is that this law simply means that the victim’s total recovery amount may only be reduced by the percentage a judge or jury determines they were at fault for the accident. And because passengers are seldom, if ever, fully responsible for a car accident, their recovery amount is rarely markedly reduced.
For instance, in South Carolina, the punishment for not wearing a seatbelt is a minor traffic violation with a $25 fine. The seatbelt statute also states that such a violation cannot be used as a comparative or contributory fault (an argument used to reduce the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover). Thus, in many instances, even when the passenger isn’t wearing a seatbelt, they hold a more valuable claim than the driver.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim as a Rideshare Passenger?
Although it may not be the first passenger injury that comes to mind, rideshare accidents with services like Uber or Lyft are increasingly common, making it essential to understand what happens when you’re involved with one.
Unfortunately, because companies like Uber and Lyft have the funds to protect their companies’ best interests, they’ve made it increasingly difficult for passengers involved in accidents to receive compensation for their injuries. And because their drivers are, by law, working on a freelance or contract basis, the burden of recovering your damages falls on the driver, not their companies.
However, in recent years, the courts have found ways to impose liability on rideshare companies who, in turn, have been subsequently forced to find coverage through insurance carriers. So while difficult, it is still possible to seek compensation against companies such as Uber or Lyft.
What Insurance Policies are Passengers Covered by?
There are a few different avenues that passengers and their injuries are covered by following a personal car injury accident, including:
Personal Injury Payment (PIP)- Most drivers should have a PIP policy included with their insurance coverage, which covers things like medical bills and lost wages. Regardless of who is at fault, if the other driver has a PIP policy, you should be able to file a claim with the insurance company.
Medical Payment (MedPay)- Similar to a PIP policy, MedPay covers medical bills and expenses following a wreck, regardless of which driver is at fault.
Bodily Injury Coverage– South Carolina law requires every driver to carry bodily injury coverage for $25,000. This is the typical insurance most people think of when they think of coverage following a car accident. However, some people may break the law and carry no bodily injury coverage, while others may have policies for a much more significant amount than the minimum $25,000.
Health Insurance- Regardless of driver coverage, you’ll still have a period where you’ll need to pay for medical treatment without compensation from the other driver’s insurance company. In these instances, having a personal health insurance policy is beneficial to help pay for a portion of your medical bills. While your settlement will eventually help to reimburse you for your medical bills, having health insurance will save you money regardless.
What if the At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, then your own insurance policies will cover the costs of your medical treatment through the uninsured motorist policy (UIM). Additionally, you should also be able to use your PIP or MedPay coverage.
Even though passengers are rarely at fault for automobile accidents, that won’t stop scrupulous insurance companies from refusing to reimburse them for the full settlement amount they’re truly owed. It’s vital to your recovery that you have an adept lawyer by your side who can prove the full extent of causation and damages in your accident case.
Don’t let insurance companies bully you out of vital compensation. A car accident lawyer will provide you with guidance and clarity to navigate the tricky process of a personal injury claim, helping you to amass evidence and negotiate with insurers so that you can focus on your physical recovery.