As a passenger in a motor vehicle, a person has certain rights if an injury is incurred in a car accident. While it can undoubtedly put a passenger in an awkward position to take legal action against a friend or relative, a claim might be necessary to recover financial losses from the accident. Fortunately, laws exist to protect individuals injured through no fault of their own.
What Important Steps Should I Take?
If an injured passenger is involved in a car accident, it is important to take certain steps:
Whether it is a minor fender bender or a serious collision, it is natural to be anxious and frightened after a motor vehicle accident. It is important to stay calm and check everyone at the scene for injuries. Do not move anyone who appears hurt and call 911 for help.
Cooperate with the Investigation
It is the driver’s responsibility to exchange contact and insurance information with any other drivers and law enforcement officers. It is almost certain one will be asked to give a personal account about the accident for the police report. These details are helpful and often essential for proving liability for the accident. One needs to be completely truthful about how the crash transpired. If the driver was texting, fatigued, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, these facts need to be disclosed.
Document the Scene
If one is able, document the accident scene by taking photos of injuries and of any damage to the vehicle, other vehicles, or other property. In addition to the police report and the witness accounts, photos will help paint a picture of how and why the wreck happened and who is likely at fault.
Keep Medical Records
Always keep any bills, diagnoses, and prescriptions related to the injuries incurred in the accident, regardless of how minor or severe the injuries are. It is possible to recover these costs through an insurance or legal claim. It is always recommended to seek medical care, even if one does not have any obvious injuries. Some internal injuries are not always immediately apparent and can develop or worsen with time.
Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer
A passenger injured in a crash is in a unique position. Passengers do not have to be concerned with proving liability. Another person or persons is more than likely responsible for the accident. There are a few ways to file a claim, depending on the details of the accident.
Consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about the claim process and how to proceed for the best chance of a favorable outcome.
What Should I Look for in a Car Accident Lawyer?
Car accident injuries can have a ripple effect, impacting one’s quality of life in countless ways. There is the time and costs of medical care, and the stress compounded with the worry of not being able to work and earn an income. A disability can hinder victims from caring for themselves, and hinder the ability to participate in hobbies and activities.
The quality of the legal advice one receives after a car accident will make a significant difference in the outcome. To choose an attorney that is equipped to tackle complex passenger claims, consider the following:
Expertise: Attorneys can either act as general practice lawyers or focus on one or more specific areas of law. Choose an attorney who knows and understands the complexities of personal injury law, especially when it comes to passenger car accident claims.
Experience: Knowing the law is essential, of course. An attorney should have proven experience handling previous car accident cases. Lawyers should also be good at negotiating with insurance adjusters, assessing cases for settlements, and making solid arguments for juries and judges. All these skills are honed through experience.
Empathy: The bottom line is that a lawyer should care about their client. While they may need to be tough in the courtroom, they should be compassionate when it comes to handling one’s case. Any type of accident that causes injuries is traumatic. An attorney who is knowledgeable about the case and genuinely concerned about their client’s well-being may be a good fit.
Rapport: One’s case is in an attorney’s hands, and one will most likely be spending a lot of time communicating with their lawyer by phone, online, and in person. A person should feel comfortable sharing concerns and questions about the claim. If a lawyer does not value their client’s opinions or time, the client should probably go elsewhere. An effective attorney takes the time to explain the legal process, discuss options, and help their client make informed decisions about how to proceed.
Reputation: Reputation speaks for itself. Ask friends, family, and colleagues to recommend a lawyer based on their experiences. Check out online reviews for insight from previous clients. Schedule a no-obligation consultation to learn more about a firm’s history, success, and approach to customer service.
Can a Passenger Make an Injury Claim?
When a passenger makes a claim under the at-fault driver’s insurance company, that is called a third-party insurance claim. In some cases, a passenger may bring a claim against any additional drivers who are partially at-fault for a wreck. If an insurance settlement is not enough to cover losses, one may consider suing one or both drivers for additional compensation.
What Happens if Both Drivers are At Fault?
If a passenger is injured in a wreck in which both drivers are responsible and the case goes to court, each insurer will pay damages based on the percentage of fault for each driver. For example, if a claim is worth $150,000 and the jury determines each driver is equally to blame, their insurance companies will each pay out $75,000. It is not uncommon for drivers to disagree with their percentage of fault. If that happens, their insurance companies will dispute the settlement, inevitably delaying the passenger’s settlement and causing continued financial strain.
That is why it is crucial to protect a claim and preserve any records and reports that prove liability for the accident and injuries.
What if Multiple Passengers are Injured?
In an accident in which multiple passengers are injured, the total amount of their injury claims is likely to exceed the driver’s liability car insurance coverage. If so, injured passengers can consider settling with the at-fault driver for less than what their claim is worth. It becomes a negotiation process among all passengers to decide who gets what portion of the total dollar amount available.
As one can imagine, this process often gets quite contentious because each passenger has medical bills to pay and other losses to recoup. This is another scenario where a seasoned personal injury lawyer can be an invaluable resource to help accident victims make informed decisions about their insurance or legal claims.
What Damages Can I Collect After a Car Accident?
A car wreck can be a significant financial hardship for an injured passenger and the family that depends on them. There are the costs of emergency care, surgery, medications, and rehabilitation. If the passenger’s injuries are so debilitating that they are temporarily or permanently unable to work, the loss of income can be devastating.
As a passenger injured in a wreck, they may be entitled to compensation for:
- Ambulance transportation
- Follow-up doctor appointments
- Hospital visits
- Loss of income
- Medical devices
- Pain and suffering
- Physical therapy
- Property damage
Anyone who has ever been involved in a serious car crash knows how distressing they can be. If one suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health issues after a traffic accident, consider pursuing damages for emotional distress as well.
One does not have to bear the burden of a crash that was not one’s fault. If one was injured by a reckless driver’s actions, they absolutely have legal recourse to recover financial compensation for losses. In Virginia and throughout the country, passengers are entitled to justice.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Help Passengers Navigate the Claims Process
Being an injured passenger can make matters difficult. If you were injured in an accident, contact one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers today. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we advocate for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians injured in all types of car accidents. Call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.