Legal Rights of Passengers Injured in Auto Accidents

Legal Rights of Passengers Injured in Auto Accidents

Lawrence J. Buckfire

Lawrence J. Buckfire

December 8, 2021 10:40 AM

Auto accidents can result in serious injuries to occupants of the involved motor vehicles. Passengers are often the most seriously injured in a crash and there are frequently multiple passengers hurt in a single accident. An injured passenger is completely innocent in a crash and has the legal right to pursue compensation against the at-fault driver.

The at-fault driver could be the person in the other vehicle or the driver of the vehicle occupied by the innocent passenger. And, in a single-vehicle accident, it would certainly be the driver of the automobile with the injured passenger. In all of these circumstances, the passenger likely has a claim for personal injury compensation against the negligent driver.

Depending on the state where the accident occurs, the passenger will have a number of different claims. These can include compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.

While many people are reluctant to sue the driver of the vehicle they were occupying, it is not uncommon at all. Many times, it is even a family member or friend that caused the crash. In those circumstances, the claim is made against the insurance company and should not affect the at-fault driver. Any settlement will be paid directly by the insurer.

In the event that the at-fault driver did not have auto insurance, the injured passenger can often look to their own auto policy. If the passenger had car insurance or lived with a relative with car insurance, a claim can be made for uninsured motorist benefits. These payments cover an injury victim if they are injured by a driver who was uninsured at the time of the crash.

The injuries in the accident can be serious and settlement compensation can be significant. Some common serious injuries include:

  • Bone fractures: In high-speed collisions, it is common for victims to suffer multiple bone fractures at once. Recovery from bone fractures can take months and some victims never fully regain strength and mobility in the affected areas.
  • Traumatic brain injuries: You do not have to lose consciousness to sustain a traumatic brain injury. Anyone who strikes his or her head on the inside of the vehicle during a crash can suffer brain trauma. If you feel confused, nauseous, or dizzy after striking your head, it is important that you seek and obtain immediate medical attention.
  • Spinal cord injuries: It is possible to sustain so much trauma to your neck or back during a collision that your spinal cord suffers irreversible damage. Trauma to the spinal cord can result in a loss of feeling and physical ability around and below the site of the trauma. Those who suffer spinal injuries may also suffer from chronic pain for the rest of their lives.
  • Burn injuries: When a car catches fire, the results can be devastating. Serious burns can result in permanent disfigurement and loss of feeling in the damaged area.

There is a significant difference between injuries that are classified as serious and those classified as catastrophic. A catastrophic injury, such as a severe head injury, can result in a significant decrease in the victim's quality of life. Serious injuries have an immediate impact on the victim's life, but catastrophic injuries can have long-term effects that affect their physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. It is important to make the distinction between a serious and a catastrophic injury during the claim process because it can affect the amount of compensation available for the victim.

In crashes that involve a fatality, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the wrongdoer. These cases seek compensation for the pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death and for the loss of companionship of family members. Claims for financial losses, like loss of earnings and support, can also be made.

It is not in your best interest to accept a settlement without first discussing your claim with a skilled auto accident lawyer. Insurance companies may make lowball offers to entice a cheap settlement or the adjuster may not disclose the full policy limits. An experienced lawyer will work hard to achieve the maximum possible settlement.

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