Passenger Rights in Car Accidents
Can Passengers Recover for Injuries suffered in an Auto Collision?
Car accidents will often occur between vehicles containing passengers alongside its drivers. In these cases, California passengers have a legal right to recover damages for any injuries sustained in a crash from either the driver at fault or their respective insurance company. Recovery includes, but is not limited to, medical treatment bills/expenses, property damages, mental pain and suffering, and, in extreme cases where passengers were unable to work due to their injuries sustained, lost wages.
How Much Can Passengers Recover?
The amount of money that a passenger can recover will depend on several factors. The first and most important question to ask in figuring this out is: Who was at fault for the crash? In order to determine whether a passenger will be able to recover anything, we must determine whether someone is legally liable (or responsible) for the loss and harm suffered. Once we figure out if there is, and who they are, we can determine an estimate of how much recovery and compensation we can obtain.
In some situations, only one driver will be at fault for the auto collision. This is often the case when one driver has collided with another because of something they did. A driver is determined to be automatically at fault if they were breaking the law when they drove by: speeding, texting while driving, driving under the influence, making an illegal left or right turn, running a red light, etc. In these cases, the driver has breached their duty to exercise reasonable care behind the wheel in order to prevent injuries to others, and is thus liable under California law to passengers for any harm resulting from that negligent behavior. The next step after identifying a negligent, at-fault driver, would be to check whether they are insured as drivers and under what insurance company/policy.
In other more complex situations, two or more drivers may share what is called “comparative fault” for an accident. An example of drivers sharing comparative fault for the consequent harm of an accident would be a situation where one driver, making an unsafe left turn, collides with another driver who was going well above the speed limit. An example of a passenger, rather than driver, sharing comparative fault for injuries sustained in a crash would be if they got in the car with someone they knew was drunk. Although the fault of parties who are comparatively negligent can be divided evenly into a 50/50 split, fault can also be allocated in variations of that, such as 70/30, 10/90, and so on. Under California’s comparative fault jurisdiction, both victims of the crash’s recoveries would be reduced in proportion to the faults they are allocated for the accident. In order to calculate, for example, Party 1’s damages in a two-party crash, the formula would look something like this: Party 1’s Damages multiplied by Party 2’s Percentage of Fault.
Whether recovery is granted to a victim for all or part of their injuries and other damages, in both of the previously mentioned situations, a passenger will likely be entitled to it for the harm they suffered from the collision. The next question for an injured passenger will be: What should I do about this?
What should Passengers do After a Collision?
Immediately after an accident, individuals should take down as much information as possible. The information should include, but is not limited to, the other driver’s name, address, vehicle license plate number, drivers license number, home and work telephone numbers, proof of insurance card, and the name, address and telephone of their insurance agent. Individuals should also try to document any witness statements they can if there were observers of the accident present, as well as take pictures of all of the damages. If police showed up to the scene of the collision, individuals should later request copies of any police reports taken of the accident as well as any conclusions reached in it.
Auto collisions, like any other accident, can result in serious injuries that are not always obvious or readily apparent to a casual observer. Examples of such hidden injuries include concussions, soft tissue damage, and internal bleeding and they could take days to become apparent via symptoms. Iit is important that individuals seek immediate medical attention after an auto collision, no matter how minor it may have seemed. Seeing a doctor can reduce an individual’s risk of long-lasting injuries with costly medical bills that could keep them out of work (triggering a loss of income), decreasing their quality of life, or even result in death. Individuals should also preserve any medical care documentation if they decided to seek any after the incident. All of this information will be necessary in forming their complaint and negotiating their settlement prior to going to trial (if they ever do).
After documenting the accident and ensuring that their health is stable, passengers should then go ahead and consult (and later retain) an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible in order to build their case and begin the negotiation process for settlement. Individuals are strongly recommended to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer before they speak with the other drivers and their attorneys or insurance company investigators because any statements they make could be used to diminish or deny their claims. Any statements that passengers make, no matter how small or innocent, at any point during or after the accident, could be used to diminish or deny their claims. Even if a passenger is honest and the stuff that they said was entirely truthful, it can be twisted against them and it can harm the size and legitimacy of their claim when they decide to take legal action. The consequences of this could be a loss, from minor to entire, in recovery and compensation.
How Much Time Do Passengers Have to Take Action?
The California statute of limitations (deadline) for bringing personal injury lawsuits is 2 years from when the accident and its consequent injuries took place. After the two year period following the incident has run, your legal right to sue another party has expired. Passengers are responsible for taking action timely bringing their case in compliance to this in order to avoid losing the opportunity to be compensated for the harm they suffered.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, please contact MK Legal Group. MK Legal Group’s extensive experience with auto accident injuries and profound knowledge of California’s personal injury laws is here to help. Our legal skills and expertise will help you recover the maximum possible compensation for your injuries and any other damages you suffered. Contact us online, or call us at 1(855)658-2545 to schedule a consultation regarding your case.