Auto Accidents: Injured Passenger Rights and Possible Claims

by Julien G. Lamothe

Car accidents in the US are common, with six million crashes of varying degrees of seriousness occurring annually. According to estimates, a person may be involved in a car accident once every 18 years. Over the course of a lifetime, that estimate means each person will experience 2-4 car accidents.

Most drivers know what will happen in the case of an accident, such as who holds liability and what claims they can make on their insurance. But what happens if you are a passenger in a car involved in an accident? What are your rights, and how do you pursue a claim if you have been injured?

Who to Claim From

Who you will file a claim against very much depends on who is most at fault for the accident. Louisiana is what is known as a “comparative fault state.” That means that in many cases, one driver will be found to be more at fault for the accident than the other(s).

1.   In most circumstances, you would pursue a third-party claim against the driver found to be most at fault.

2.   If more than one driver is found to be at fault, then you can file claims against each of them.

3.   If you owned the car you were a passenger in, you would also typically pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. In circumstances where the at-fault driver does not have insurance, you  can then file an insurance claim under your own Uninsured Motorist insurance if you have chosen this as part of your coverage.

4.   If you owned the car you were a passenger in, and the driver of your vehicle was the one at fault, then you need to check if your policy allows coverage in those circumstances.

What Can I Claim?

Two factors will dictate how much compensation you can receive. One is the extent of the insurance coverage involved, and the other is the total extent of damages or injuries you have suffered. If you have filed a claim against more than one driver, you cannot receive more than the total extent of damages suffered.

Do I Have Rights?

Yes. Although the focus after an accident is usually on the drivers and who is to blame, any passengers in the cars or vehicles involved also have rights.

Guidance from the Louisiana Department of Insurance states that the owner of the car you were a passenger in holds medical payments insurance coverage. This policy covers your injuries, regardless of which driver was at fault.

This is an optional policy. This coverage will also apply – if you hold it – if you owned the car you were a passenger in, and the driver of your car was the one at fault.

What Can I Claim For?

Any total amount awarded will be limited by the relevant insurance policies and how much coverage they offer. In most cases, you will usually be able to claim the following:

1.   All initial, current, and future medical costs you may incur as a result of any injuries. This can include treatment such as any required physical therapy or rehabilitation services.

2.   Any property damage caused by the accident.

3.   Other costs you may have incurred or economic loss, such as loss of wages.

Statute of Limitations

The same time frame exists for passengers as for drivers. In Louisiana, any claim must be filed within one year of the date of the accident.

Final Words

While your initial focus after a car accident will be on well-being and treatment of your injuries, there will come the point where you have to consider the economic damage caused by the accident, including medical bills and having to take time off work. Knowing what your rights are and how – and when – to proceed are crucial to ensuring that you do not face financial hardship.

With many years of experience in dealing with car accident-related cases, Lamothe Law Firm can help you navigate the complexities of accident claims. To schedule a free consultation with us, contact us.

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