What to Do If You’re Injured in a Car Accident as a Passenger in California
It can be difficult for anyone to navigate the claims process after an auto accident, but if you were a passenger in a car accident, the process can be even more confusing. Remember – you don’t have to deal with the insurance companies alone.
At Arash Law, we know how devastating a car accident can be, and this fact is why we fight so hard for accident victims. Our experienced car accident attorneys have over twenty years of experience, and we have collected over 200 million dollars for our clients.
We have helped accident victims throughout California, including San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks and throughout California. We can help you access all sources of compensation so that your legal rights are protected.
Call (888) 488-1391 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced California auto accident injury lawyer.
FAQs for Passengers in California Auto Accidents
Here are some of the most common questions our lawyers receive from passengers in car accidents:
What should I do after I am involved in a car accident as a passenger?
Any time you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, your first priority should be getting to safety. Get out of the vehicle and find a safe spot on the side of the road that is far away from the flow of traffic. If you cannot leave the car, call 911 and let them know that you are trapped. They will send the proper equipment and responders right away.
Next, you need to take care of your medical needs. Let the emergency medical personnel on the scene evaluate your injuries and follow any of their recommendations. If you choose not to leave the scene in an ambulance, you should still visit an emergency department or an urgent care facility right away.
Even if you think you are not injured at all, it is always important to follow up with your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Some injuries may not start to show symptoms for days or weeks after an accident occurs. Only a qualified medical provider can determine the extent of your injuries. Whether you think you are injured or not, this documentation will be critical evidence in your personal injury claim.
Once you have addressed your medical needs, it is time to address your legal needs. Find an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Do not make any statements about the accident to the insurance company until you have retained a lawyer. Once the insurance company is notified of your attorney’s contact information, they can no longer contact you regarding the accident, which will protect you from inadvertently saying something that could be detrimental to your personal injury claim.
How do I file a claim as a Passenger after an accident?
A personal injury attorney can help you file a claim after an auto accident. If you choose to do so on your own, many insurance carriers offer simple instructions for opening a claim online. The initial report will consist of necessary information about the drivers and vehicles involved, as well as your contact information and role as a passenger in the car. Once the claim has been opened with this necessary information, the insurance company will open an investigation to determine who was at fault for causing the accident and the extent of your damages. It’s important to remember that you should have an attorney representing you during the claims process, as insurance companies do everything they can to minimize their payouts.
The person who was legally at fault for causing the accident also has a legal obligation to compensate accident victims for their injuries and losses. This is why insurance companies must determine who was at fault for an accident. Liability can be apportioned between two (or more) drivers. It can also be assigned to third parties, such as a biker who darted out in the middle of the road, or an auto manufacturer who installed defective brakes.
The insurance companies will first determine what portion of fault their driver had. If the other driver was fully liable for the accident, they will offer to compensate 100 percent of your injuries and losses. If the insurance company only accepts partial liability, they will offer to compensate that portion of your losses. For example, if the insurance company determines that its driver was fifty percent at fault, you will be offered compensation for half the total value of all your injuries and losses.
Your liability as an injured passenger
Passengers can sometimes contribute to causing an accident. In this case, liability will be apportioned among the drivers and the negligent passenger. The drivers’ insurance companies will only offer compensation for whatever portion of the liability is assigned to their driver. As a result, the passenger cannot recover compensation for the share of injuries that he or she caused.
How can a passenger be liable for causing an accident? Passengers must also exercise due care when in a vehicle. A passenger can be found negligent if his or her conduct causes a driver to crash. A passenger might take the wheel and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. A passenger might encourage the driver to speed or engage in dangerous behavior. In general, a driver is responsible for his or her own actions, but a passenger’s conduct can be deemed negligent if it contributes to causing an accident. The passenger’s conduct must usually be egregious in order to supersede the driver’s own conduct.
Can I file a claim through my own insurance?
You may be asking yourself, “does my car insurance cover me as a passenger in another car?”. In general, passengers will file personal injury claims with the insurance carrier for the at-fault driver. But passengers might also have insurance coverage through their own policies. It is essential to consult with an experienced auto accident lawyer about all possible sources of compensation for your injuries.
Medical payments coverage is an optional upgrade to your own auto insurance coverage. This coverage extends to your medical bills that are incurred as a result of any auto accident. The accident does not have to involve the vehicle you have insured, and you do not have to prove liability. Many California drivers skip this coverage in order to reduce their auto insurance premiums. It is, however, an important coverage that can be a significant help after an auto accident.
Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) protects a driver and his or her passengers in the event they are struck by a driver who carries either no insurance or not enough insurance coverage to pay for all the losses caused in an accident. This, too, is optional coverage that many California drivers forego in the interest of keeping their auto insurance premiums low. UM and UIM coverage is important for many reasons. If you have the misfortune to be hit by an uninsured driver, you might not be able to recover any compensation for your injuries. UM coverage can help ensure that your medical bills are paid.
Your health insurance carrier has a contractual obligation to offer coverage for medical bills. This applies regardless of whether the medical bills were incurred as the result of a car accident or not. Your standard premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and other limitations will still apply. But this is an essential financial safety net to ensure that your medical bills are paid while you are waiting for a settlement check. It is also an important safety net for those passengers who are struck by drivers without auto insurance coverage.
Your health insurance must offer its usual coverage in the case of auto accident injuries. However, many auto accident victims are able to recover the full value of their medical bills through a personal injury case. In this event, your health insurance company has the right to be reimbursed for any payments it made that were related to the accident and covered by your personal injury award. (Otherwise, you would be “double-dipping” by getting compensated twice for the same medical bills.) This is known as the right of subrogation. Your attorney will help you deal with your health insurance company’s lien and ensure that they are claiming only appropriate expenses.
What if I have no insurance?
Your insurance is not the primary coverage for an auto accident caused by a negligent driver. If you are injured as a passenger, it is very likely that someone else was legally at fault for causing the accident. You have the right to be fully compensated by the negligent driver for all your losses, including:
- Medical bills and projected future medical expenses
- Lost wages (and any decrease in your future earning capacity as a result of permanent injuries)
- Property damage (such as a phone or tablet that was broken in the accident)
- Pain and suffering
Your right to be compensated has nothing to do with whether you are insured or not. If you do not have health insurance, you might need to work with medical providers who are willing to work on a lien against your settlement. Arash Law can help you find chiropractors and other healthcare providers who will provide treatment while you are waiting for your settlement.
How much can a passenger get in an auto accident case in California?
The amount of your settlement will be determined by the value of your losses. For example, someone who suffers serious injuries will incur a lot of medical bills and likely miss a lot of work. This translates to a higher settlement than someone who had few medical bills and missed just a couple days of work. The scope of your injuries directly impacts the scope of your settlement.
The largest component of a personal injury award is often pain and suffering. This is difficult to quantify because each of us experiences pain very differently. If you can document specific ways in which your pain has impacted you (for example, missing work or being unable to sleep), you will have a stronger case for a pain and suffering award.
What if I am a surviving family member of a passenger killed in an auto accident?
In the past, a personal injury claim “belonged” to the victim, and thus did not survive if the victim passed away. Lawmakers soon realized how unfair this was. If the injury was serious enough, the negligent party could simply get away without paying for his or her actions.
Today, wrongful death actions allow specified family members to file an action on behalf of a victim who is killed by another person’s negligence. Section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure gives rules for who may file a wrongful death claim:
- The victim’s surviving spouse registered domestic partner or children
- Grandchildren (if the victim’s child is no longer alive)
- If there is no surviving spouse, child or grandchild, the claim is held by the next of kin (as defined by the state statutes that define who is entitled to inherit the victim’s property if he or she dies without a will)
The victim’s pain and suffering cannot be claimed in a wrongful death action. The surviving family members can, however, claim their own losses, including loss of consortium. Loss of consortium refers to the love and companionship of a spouse or the guidance of a parent. It is similar to pain and suffering, but it changes the focus to the survivors’ pain and suffering – not the victim’s. Survivors can also claim economic damages for the victim’s lost wages, medical expenses incurred before the death, burial expenses, funeral costs, and other documented expenses.
Experienced California Injury Lawyers for All Auto Accident Passengers
You don’t have to feel alone after an auto accident. At Arash Law, our legal team will work together to guide you through the claims process. Our experienced auto accident attorneys will protect your legal rights so you can focus on making the best recovery possible.
Call (888) 488-1391 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation at Arash Law. Let our experienced attorneys negotiate with the insurance company and defend your legal rights. We have helped thousands of injury victims across California, and we will fight for you, too.