Most people know the rules for getting properly paid through insurance if they are driving and are injured by another vehicle. But when you’re riding as a passenger in someone else’s car and are hurt, who pays then? Injured passengers are often confused about the steps they should take after an accident. The following advice will help injured passengers in car accidents protect their rights and navigate the claims process.
Know the Law in Your State
In most accidents when you are a passenger, your own personal insurance will not usually come into play. You’ll be filing a claim with one of the drivers’ policies instead. It’s also important to remember that if you were hurt riding in the family car, you won’t usually be able to file a claim for any additional damages beyond the ordinary policy limits if you’re related to the driver or you’re a member of their household. This is because you’re usually considered covered under the policy that covers that driver’s vehicle.
In general, in “at fault”states like Ohio, the percentage of fault covered will be negotiated between the insurance carriers for each driver, and damages for injury in an accident will be paid to the claimant by one of them out of that process. In 12 “no fault” states, the injured party will file the claim under the driver’s “PIP” (personal injury protection) insurance coverage.
You can claim amounts up to and including stated policy limits, if those are sufficient to cover your actual losses. They usually include medical expenses. You may also include things like lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses, but you must be prepared to document anything you claim. You typically cannot exceed the policy limits in any case.
Determine When You Should Use Your Own Coverage
Should your recovery possibilities be far too low under the drivers’ policies, Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage is another option. UM coverage protects you if you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t carry liability insurance. It is normally obtained under your own personal auto insurance. You will be required to work with an adjuster from your own carrier, who will expect you to sign releases of information from your medical providers and your employer. It is likely they will have you undergo an independent medical exam by a doctor you don’t know.
Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) however, applies in when you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver whose liability limits are too low to cover the damage or medical expenses. The at-fault driver’s insurance will typically pay for all damages up to the policy limits, and then your UIM coverage will cover the excess amount up to the limits you selected when you purchased your coverage.
Document Everything as a Passenger in a Car Accident
When fault is contested or extraordinary damages beyond policy limits are claimed, the negotiations can become drawn out and complicated, even taking months or years. Insurance companies differ in their approach and their level of openness to settling with claimants. Unfortunately, to get a fair recovery for your damages, you may be forced to file a lawsuit.
Before that happens, take steps to get your paperwork in order. Good preparation is critical to reducing the length and complexity of any lawsuit. Having evidence that was obtained at the time the accident happened is one of the best things you can do. It’s important to remember that in an accident, evidence disappears fast.
Take photos of the accident scene before the vehicles are moved, and make notes of the events as you remember them. Get names, contact phone numbers, insurance information, and license plate numbers of all drivers and their respective vehicles and for any witnesses, if possible. If the driver of your car was careless or you know something about the circumstances that the police need to know, don’t assume you should ignore anything you saw or heard. If none of the drivers are calling the police, do it yourself. Most states require a police report in the case of an injury accident. Go to the doctor and get documentation of your injuries as soon as possible.
Get Help from a Professional
Hiring an experienced car accident lawyer early on can help you to avoid unnecessary litigation and have your back while the insurance companies – even your own – work against you.
An attorney can help you throughout the settlement process, advise you as to what is fair, and refer you to specialists for help with areas such as occupational rehabilitation and financial planning.
You’ve been injured through no fault of your own and you have the right to fair compensation for medical injuries and pain and suffering. Don’t make assumptions or sign anything until you talk to an attorney.
We do not charge you any attorney fees unless you recover damages. Call us today at 419-843-6663 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.