In car accident cases, passengers are afforded the same legal rights as anyone else who is injured because of the negligent actions of another motorist. Just because you weren’t driving the vehicle when a collision occurred, doesn’t mean your injuries, damages, pain and suffering aren’t worthy of legal reparations.
As in most injury claims, victims are allowed to pursue compensation from at-fault parties, whether it’s the driver of the vehicle you were riding in, or another motorist who was responsible for the accident. In single-vehicle crashes, passengers may sue the driver of the vehicle if they acted carelessly and endangered the lives of their occupants. For example, let’s say the driver was going too fast for road conditions and lost control of his or her vehicle, causing it to veer off the road and slam into a guardrail or tree. In California, as in all states, drivers have a duty to use reasonable care while operating a vehicle, and may be held liable for their passenger’s injuries and losses in the event of a crash.
Single vehicle crashes: suing the driver
If the driver fails to exercise due care for his or her passengers’ safety, and their actions result in serious personal injury or death, the passenger or their immediate family (in fatal cases) is entitled to seek compensation from the driver for economic and non-economic losses stemming from the accident.
While some injury victims may be reluctant to take legal action if they are friends with the driver in question, keep in mind that you are not suing them personally, but rather pursuing a monetary claim against their insurance company. In some cases, this is the only effective means of recouping money for hospital bills, medications, and lost income during your recovery.
Multi-vehicle accidents: determining liability
If the collision involved multiple vehicles, it is always wise to enlist an experienced car accident attorney, who can gather evidence to establish which driver(s) were at fault. In certain cases, both the driver of the vehicle you riding in and the other motorist were negligent. In this scenario, injured passengers may be able to pursue damages from both parties. If one driver’s car insurance policy isn’t adequate to cover the cost of all your medical expenses and other damages, a claim may be filed against the other driver’s insurance – if they were partially liable for the accident — to ensure you are fully compensated.
It’s important to note that insurance adjustors are always looking out for their firm’s best interest. As a passenger and party to the crash, you may feel pressured to provide a written or recorded statement about your version of the accident. Before giving any kind of a statement, always speak to a qualified attorney, who can ensure your rights are preserved until liable parties have been identified. Your lawyer will also make sure that you get proper medical treatment, and are thoroughly evaluated for all physical and emotional injuries suffered.
Consult with a California car accident attorney
If you or someone you love was seriously harmed in a car accident while riding as a passenger, compensation may be available for your injuries, medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Sean Salamati is a veteran car accident lawyer in Los Angeles, and can explain your options for pursuing legal compensation through an insurance settlement or personal injury claim. California imposes strict time limits for filing a lawsuit, so it’s important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
Call the Salamati Law Firm toll-free to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
Additional “California Passenger Injury Claim” Resources:
- California Courts, Statute of Limitations Statute of Limitations http://www.courts.ca.gov/9618.htm
- California DMV, Financial Responsibility (Insurance) Requirements for Vehicle Registration (FFVR 18) https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/brochures/fast_facts/ffvr18