What Rights Do Passengers Have in a Car Accident?

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Whether or not someone is driving a vehicle when an accident occurs has little to do with the injuries they sustain. Passengers inside of vehicles that are involved in accidents are injured every day on California roadways. It is important for passengers to know what rights and options they have when they have been involved in an accident.

Car accident injuries are going to happen

During the latest reporting year in California, the state Office of Traffic Safety says that there were more than 273,000 total injuries. While many of these injuries involved drivers, many passengers were also injured. It is not uncommon for passengers to sustain the following serious injuries due to a car accident in California:

  • Broken and dislocated bones
  • Severe lacerations
  • Amputations
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Concussions
  • Open head wounds
  • Internal organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Whiplash injuries

Who is liable for the injuries?

If you are an injured passenger in a California car accident, truck accident or motorcycle accident, you have the right to recover compensation from the insurance carrier of the at-fault driver. This may be the driver of the car you were in, or it may be the driver of another vehicle involved.

Determining liability can be complicated and often involves help from an attorney. A California car accident lawyer will look at the entire case and work to determine the at-fault party. This can include:

  • Police reports
  • Video and photo surveillance from the scene
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Statement from all drivers and passengers

Passengers injured in these cases will make a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier to recover compensation. This can become complicated if more than one party is at fault because the insurance carriers will likely battle over who is responsible for passenger injuries.

  • If one driver is 100% at fault for the crash, then their insurance carrier will be liable for 100% of a passenger’s injuries.
  • If more than one driver is at fault for the crash, their respective insurance carriers will be responsible for a portion of the passenger’s damages. The amount of liability they have will be proportionate with how much percentage of fault they had for the incident.

Can a passenger be held liable for the incident?

In some cases, it may be argued that the behavior of the passenger caused or contributed to the accident. Under California’s contributory negligence laws, the amount of money an injured passenger receives may be reduced by the same percentage of fault they had for the incident. For example, if a passenger is awarded $10,000 in damages but was found to be 20% responsible for the crash, they would only receive $8,000 in compensation.

What if fault is not determined or there is no insurance?

If fault is not determined in your case or if the at-fault driver did not have insurance, you may be able to file a claim with your own car insurance carrier if you have uninsured motorist coverage. This type of coverage is optional in California, but it is always a good idea to carry additional protection.

Do you need an attorney?

In the aftermath of being injured in a car crash as a passenger, you may need to seek assistance from an California car accident attorney. Your lawyer will investigate the incident and work to ensure you receive maximum compensation for your claim.