Scenarios That Could Impact Your Ability to Recover Damages After a Car Accident
Driving is a normal part of modern life. It is something many of us do most days or every day. It is also common to be a passenger in the car of a friend, family member or colleague. But what happens if you are a passenger in a car and get into an accident? If you are injured, who is responsible for your damages? In the vast majority of cases, passengers are clearly not responsible for an accident that they were injured in. Most of the time, the driver of the car you are riding in, or the driver of another car will be found negligent, and therefore liable to you for your injuries. Sometimes, however, despite the fact that the passenger clearly had no part in the cause of the accident, he or she will still be caught up in the dispute over liability as the drivers argue over who bears the bulk of the responsibility for the collision. And in some rare situations, passengers might not be totally off the hook for liability either.
Here are several scenarios that might impact the passenger's ability to recover for his or her injuries in a car accident:
The single car accident
If a passenger is riding in another person's car, and the driver hits a tree, there is a good chance that the driver will be liable for the passenger's injuries. Most of the time, this type of accident will be found to have resulted from the driver's negligence, and the driver's insurance will have to pay for the passenger's injuries. There are also cases where the driver in a single car accident may not have been negligent, for example, if the car malfunctioned, in which case the manufacturer might be the responsible party.
When two or more cars are involved
In two car accidents, or multi-car accidents, the driver responsible for the accident can be fairly obvious. For instance, if a driver is stopped at a red light, and someone rear ends them, the driver who hit the stopped car is likely liable. In this case, the driver who rear-ended the front car would be the one responsible for injuries to passengers in both cars. In other cases, though, it is possible that both drivers were responsible. In these cases, the drivers' insurers will likely argue over who was more liable for the accident. Normally, an innocent injured passenger should be able to collect either way, but collecting for injuries can be complicated when both insurance companies only admit to a small fraction of the liability, and are not willing to cover the additional costs. For instance, if the passenger suffered $10,000 dollars' worth of damage, and both insurers believe their driver was only 20% responsible, then each insurance company will only be willing to pay $2000 to the injured passenger, effectively covering only 40% of the cost of the passenger's injuries. In these cases the passenger's ability to collect will become complicated and recovery could be delayed, necessitating litigation.
When passengers are found responsible for their own injuries
While it is much less common, passengers can sometimes be found partially liable, or even entirely liable for their injuries in a car accident. For example, sometimes a passenger could be deemed at fault for his or her injuries if the passenger knew the driver was intoxicated, or even provided alcohol to the driver. In some cases, the passenger may even be found to have caused the accident, as would be the case if the passenger covered the driver's eyes, grabbed the steering wheel, or otherwise distracted the driver.
If you were a passenger in a car accident and suffered an injury, you should consult with an attorney at Montlick & Associates to learn about your legal rights as well as what steps are necessary to protect those rights.
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