Close up of a passenger in a car buckling his seatbelt.

What are the Rights of a Passenger in a Car Accident?

Passengers in car accidents can be eligible for fair compensation for their injuries. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, passenger’s can file claims through either of the drivers’ insurance carrier or their own insurance.

It can happen in an instant. One minute you are a passenger in your friend’s car, and the next, you are involved in a devastating crash that turns your life upside down. In West Virginia, if you were harmed in a motor vehicle collision as a passenger, you have legal rights that allow you to pursue money for the injuries and losses you sustained.

To better help you understand your rights as a passenger, this blog post will discuss your legal remedies, the compensation you can collect, and the actions you need to take to ensure your legal rights are protected.

What Should You Do if You Are a Passenger in a Car Accident?

The steps you take after a wreck can ensure that you stay safe and that your rights remain protected. Following a car accident, the scene can often be quite chaotic and stressful for everyone involved. In these situations, you must remain calm and take specific actions.

If you are ever involved in an auto accident as a passenger, make sure you do the following:

Contact the Police

Rear view of a police car with emergency lights on responding to a car accident. After an accident the driver or passenger should call the police to the scene.

This is the fastest way to alert emergency medical services that you or someone at the scene needs medical help and get the accident on record.

When the police arrive, they will investigate the motor vehicle crash and create an accident report. You will need this report if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim.

Get Driver Details

If another motorist was involved in the accident, make sure you get their name, contact details, driver’s license number, and insurance details.

Obtain Witness Information

If there were people present at the crash scene who saw what happened, make sure to get their name and contact information.

These witness statements are often critical for claims as they can help explain how the accident occurred and who was at fault for the crash.

Take Pictures

If it is safe, make sure you collect as many pictures and videos of the accident as you can. Include photos of the scene, the damaged vehicles, elements that contributed to the crash, your visible injuries, skid marks on the road, traffic signs near the accident scene, and any other evidence that can help show what happened.

See a Doctor

A man who was injured as a passenger in a car accident speaks with his doctor about his injuries.

Even if your injuries appear minor, make sure you get examined promptly by a doctor. Serious injuries such as shoulder injuries and whiplash can remain hidden for days to even weeks before they manifest. The longer you wait to get these injuries checked out, the more deadly they can become.

Once your doctor examines you, they will create a medical report. This report can help support your future personal injury claim by providing evidence of a direct link between the car crash and your injuries.

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

Car accident claims can often be challenging to pursue alone and require a thorough understanding of the state’s laws, relevant evidence, and sound legal arguments proving fault and damages.

When you have an experienced car accident lawyer on your side, these attorneys can take on this challenging legal battle for you while you focus on recovering.

What if You Are a Passenger in an Auto Accident Without Insurance?

If you have been in an auto accident, there are usually three ways to seek compensation for your injuries. They include:

  • Filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
  • Filing a claim with your own auto insurance company if the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured.
  • Filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

Typically, in West Virginia, uninsured motorist coverage will pay for drivers and their passengers if they are injured by an at-fault motorist who does not have any car insurance. Better yet, this uninsured motorist liability coverage will often cover any injuries that occurred and property damages that the at-fault motorist caused.

Would the Passenger in a Car Accident be Liable?

In most cases, a passenger would not be held liable for a motor vehicle accident as it is usually the drivers who are held responsible for these crashes.

There are a few cases where a passenger can be found at fault for a collision or bear some of the blame for the accident. For instance, a passenger could be found liable or bear some responsibility if:

  • They forcibly reach for the steering wheel, causing the car to spin out of control.
  • They put their leg over the pedals and hit the gas or the brakes.
  • They encourage the driver to do something dangerous.

What Benefits Are Passengers in Auto Accidents Entitled to?

Passengers who are injured in a car accident may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damage to their property. In order to recover for those damages you may need to file a claim through one of the drivers’ insurance policies or through your own car or health insurance.

Filing an Injury Claim as a Passenger in a Car Accident

A woman who was injured as a passenger in a car accident calls insurance to file her claim at the scene of the accident.

If you were a passenger in a motor vehicle accident, you will often have to contact the insurance companies to file an injury claim. To ensure you are filing the claim with the appropriate insurance company, you need to consider the circumstances of the accident:

If you were riding in a friend’s car, and your friend was liable for the crash, you can file a legal claim against their insurance policy. Do not worry, you do not have to sue your friend to obtain the money you need. You just need to file a claim with their insurance company.

If another vehicle was liable for the car crash, you can file an injury claim with the other motorist’s insurance policy.

If both motorists were liable for the accident, it is possible to go after compensation from both policies. You may also be able to file a claim with your own insurance policy for medical payments since this claim is not based on liability.

Close up of a car accident insurance reporting form with a decorative toy car on top of it. Filing a claim accurately is key for injured passengers to get the compensation they need.

To initiate one of these claims, you will generally need to send a letter to the at-fault motorist’s insurance company indicating that you have this type of claim. Or you can have your personal injury lawyer send this letter on your behalf.

Passengers involved in an auto accident may have an easier time than a driver when filing an injury claim because they usually do not have to worry about proving liability. What makes filing a claim difficult for passengers is knowing which insurer to file with and how to file that claim.

When the passenger makes an insurance claim, it will proceed like any other car accident claim, except that the passenger can file a claim against both drivers unless it is evident that one of the drivers was not negligent or responsible for the collision.

If the incident is one where both drivers could be at fault, the injured passenger can negotiate with both motorists’ insurance companies and settle the situation quickly.

Problematic situations can arise that can cause issues for a passenger trying to obtain the money they need following a car crash. For example, when the insurance companies do not want to settle or there are multiple passengers.

That is why when proceeding with a claim, you must have an experienced injury attorney on your side, fighting for the compensation and damages you are entitled to. Otherwise, you may be facing a tedious, complex, and difficult legal battle filled with various issues that may prevent you from obtaining the money you need.

Why You Should Hire a Personal Injury Attorney

A person who was injured as a passenger in a car accident consults with a personal injury attorney to understand their rights and options.

It may appear as if a passenger injury claim should be a relatively straightforward process. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Not only is the insurance company very likely to try to settle your claim for as little money as possible, but many times the process can be filled with unnecessary delays and issues that can make the whole situation seem quite overwhelming.

With an experienced personal injury attorney from The Miley Legal Group on your side, you do not have to worry about tackling this complex legal battle yourself.

When you retain one of our lawyers to take on your claim, we can handle all the discussions and negotiations with the insurance provider and fight for a fair settlement on your behalf. We will build your case and gather all of the evidence to support your claim, including police and medical records, so that you can focus on your recovery.

If a car accident has disrupted your life, do not wait any longer to get the legal help you need. Contact The Miley Legal Group today for a free consultation, and let our experienced personal injury lawyers go after the justice and compensation you deserve.

Author Bio

Tim Miley is the Founder of Miley Legal Accident Injury Lawyers, a West Virginia personal injury law firm he formed in 2006. With more than 30 years of experience in personal injury law, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of personal injury cases, including car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, brain injuries, wrongful death, and other personal injury matters.

Tim received his Juris Doctor from Duquesne University and is a member of the West Virginia State Bar and the Harrison County Bar Association. He has helped his clients win more than $10 million in personal injury verdicts and settlements and has further served the people of West Virginia by filling legislative roles in the state’s government since 2004.

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