Who is liable for my injuries if I was a passenger in a car accident?

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When you are a passenger in another's vehicle, you run the risk of being involved in a serious car accident. Even if the driver of the vehicle you are in is the safest driver you know, other negligent drivers or unavoidable hazards can occur that will leave you uncertain about your recovery. If you are a passenger in a car accident, you might not have any idea where to turn; we can help.

What do I do first?

The first step in these cases is to determine who was at fault for causing the accident. Through police reports and evidence from the crash site, the insurance companies and your lawyer will determine which of the following is true:

  • The driver of the car you were riding in was negligent and caused the accident.
  • The other driver’s negligence caused the accident.
  • Both drivers involved caused the accident.
  • An outside hazard (e.g., nature, animal, road damage, etc.) caused the accident.

With this information, you can establish liability and seek damages from the applicable source.

When should I file a claim with the insurance of the driver of the car I was in?

Accidents caused by your driver's negligence such as driving while intoxicated or distracted will fall under your driver's car insurance. If the insurance company does not consider you an insured member of the driver's household, you can file a claim for compensation through his/her bodily injury coverage.

If you are a member of his/her household and covered by his/her insurance, you will need to use your personal injury protection or medical benefits coverage to cover your injuries.

When should I file a claim with the other driver's insurance?

Accidents caused by the other driver’s negligence will make that driver and his/her insurance company liable for your injuries. Your lawyer will file a claim for damages against that driver's bodily injury coverage and seek compensation through any other applicable optional coverage. 

How do I file a claim if both drivers are liable for the accident?

Your lawyer can review both drivers' insurance policies to determine which one will provide you with the most coverage. You will start with a claim under the policy with the highest coverage.

If the claim is insufficient and your lawyer can prove a greater extent of damages, you might be able to file a claim against both insurance policies.

Do I have to file a claim with my car insurance?

Car insurance claims can take a long time to negotiate and resolve. If you have car insurance of your own, you can opt to have your medical benefits policy (also known as MedPay) cover your medical bills. Not all policies have medical benefits, and your policy might not cover the full extent of your damages.

If your MedPay policy does not cover all of your damages, you are still entitled to file a claim with the liable driver's insurance, or even your driver's medical benefits. However, filing multiple claims will not entitle you to more damages than apply to your claim. Once one insurance pays part of your damages, the other insurance companies will reduce additional claims by that amount.

In some cases, your insurer may want to recover what it paid from your settlement with the at-fault driver (e.g., if your MedPay coverage paid $5,000 in medical bills, it will likely expect to receive that $5,000 from your settlement).

How can I protect my right to recover damages after a car accident?

Make sure you collect the contact and insurance information for all parties involved, including your driver. You should also collect as much information about the accident as possible; take pictures, write down eyewitness information, etc. With this information, your lawyer can begin determining the best course of action for your recovery.

Insurance claims can be very difficult to handle. Remember that the insurers (both the at-fault driver’s and your own) are businesses and will do what they can to reduce your settlement. For this reason, you should never agree to a recorded statement until you have spoken with us.

Max Meyers Law PLLC is a Kirkland law firm that helps passengers seek compensation for their injuries. Do not let the insurance companies coerce you into a low settlement.

Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney Max Meyers and learn about your rights to a fair settlement: 425-399-7000.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.