Can I Sue for Being a Passenger in an Accident?
Anyone involved in a car accident can endure pain and suffering from sustained injuries. Their agony may be magnified by the stress that comes from the financial ramifications of an accident. These may include medical expenses, lost wages and other similar expenses. While some people may assume that a personal injury claim can only be made by the driver of the affected vehicle, this is not the case. Passengers in the vehicle may be impacted by the personal injury event as well. Like other victims in a car accident, they have the ability to sue the responsible party for damages. Before you contact a car accident attorney to begin the legal process, you can learn more about what is involved in this type of case.
Understanding Car Accident Liability in California
In California, both individuals and entities can be held liable for auto accidents that they are responsible for. For example, a driver may face liability for an auto accident if he or she was texting while driving. Tailgating, reckless driving, driving while intoxicated and driving in an unsafe vehicle may be sufficient reasons to deem a driver negligent for the accident. This makes the driver responsible for the injured party’s medical bills, damaged property, mental anguish and more.
Notably, there are times when the injured party may not receive full compensation for a personal injury claim. There may also be times when the injured party may be required to assume at least some of the responsibility for the event if he or she was not operating the vehicle. With these factors in mind, a consultation with a car accident attorney is a great way to learn more about your rights and the strength of your auto accident case.
Factors That Could Impact Your Compensation
A passenger may not physically operate the vehicle, but he or she is required to take reasonable steps to protect his or her well-being on the road. For example, a passenger should not knowingly ride with an intoxicated driver. He or she should always wear a seatbelt. The passenger should also avoid riding in a vehicle that is visibly unsafe to operate. If a passenger gets into a vehicle with any of these factors at play, he or she assumes at least a portion of the responsibility for the accident in some cases.
The court will decide the amount of liability that the passenger has and that the other parties have. This will be deducted from the full amount of the award. Whether the driver of the vehicle the passenger was in or a third-party driver is ultimately deemed to be responsible for the accident, these factors can play a role in the total amount of the award that is received through a lawsuit.
Compensation for a Personal Injury Claim
A passenger’s personal injury expenses from a car accident can be enormous in some cases. These expenses may begin mounting immediately after the car accident when the individual receives emergency medical attention at the scene. Surgeries, emergency room visits or hospital stays, rehab therapy, medications and more may follow.
In addition to these possibly huge expenses, the passenger in a car accident may not be able to work for months on end while he or she recuperates. In some cases, injuries result in permanent damage. This could mean that the individual is no longer able to work in the same position, that his or her house or vehicle needs to be modified and more.
After being involved in a car accident, you understandably do not want to leave money on the table. Your life may be upended for months, years or longer as a result of an event that another person was responsible for. You may face serious financial implications that can impact your quality of life, your access to medical care and more during that time period. Because of personal injury laws in California, responsible parties can be held liable for the expenses they cause. This means that you may not need to experience any level of financial hardship as a result of the accident.
Through a lawsuit, the responsible party may also be responsible for the victim’s mental pain and suffering. This mental distress may stem from the accident itself, such as through a lingering fear of driving in a vehicle or through other mental health concerns. It may also come from anxiety and stress related to what the future holds, the possibility that the victim may need to find a new job or a new line of work altogether and more.
Keep in mind that the passenger victim in a car accident may not survive his or her injuries. In some cases, the individual’s death may occur hours, days or even months after the accident takes place. During that time period, the individual may have received expensive medical care, and the family may have been left to foot the bill. Regardless of when the death occurred, the accident may have resulted in financial hardship for surviving family members and dependents. For example, the family may have been dependent on that person’s income to make ends meet and to maintain their quality of life. A wrongful death case falls under the umbrella of personal injury. The surviving family members may hold the liable party responsible for their to-date expenses as well as for future financial impacts that they anticipate. Mental anguish and distress may also be taken into account when determining the victim’s award.
Determining the Responsible Party
At first glance, there are two primary parties that may be responsible for a car accident. These are the driver of the vehicle that the passenger is in and the driver of the other vehicle. However, there are instances when multiple vehicles are involved in an accident. In California, the court will decide the amount of liability that a specific driver has. For example, two drivers may be equally responsible for an accident, or a third driver may be 80 percent liable while the other two drivers share the rest of the responsibility. The circumstances of the case will determine who the responsible parties are.
In some cases, neither driver is at fault. For example, a manufacturer who produced faulty auto parts may be deemed liable. This manufacturer may be wholly responsible for claims made by all individuals in the affected vehicles. If a company’s fleet driver or another party is responsible, the matter of determining responsible may grow more complicated. However, you still have the right to bring the responsible party to justice through a personal injury claim.
In many cases, at least a portion of the personal injury claim is paid for by an insurance company. The insurance company of the liable party is responsible for paying out on a claim up to the insured’s coverage limits. The liable party is then fully responsible for any balance not paid by the insurance company. There may be times when the insurance company pushes back on a claim or refuses to pay it. In these cases, the insurance company may be a party in the lawsuit. If multiple people are at-fault parties, multiple insurance companies may be involved in the lawsuit.
Learn More About Liability for Car Accidents
As a passenger in a vehicle, you have no control over the vehicle’s movement, and you cannot take steps to avoid a collision with another vehicle. While you do have some control over your personal safety, you are largely left in the hands of the driver of the vehicle. Even when your driver does everything right, a third party could cause an accident that you have no ability to prevent.
Determining who the responsible party is in an accident can be a challenge. This grows more complicated because multiple parties, including yourself, may hold a fraction of the responsibility. Determining the compensation that an injured party is entitled to under the law adds to the challenge of a personal injury case.
If you were the passenger in a car accident, your next step is to consult with an experienced car accident attorney in California. Through a free legal consultation, you can gain greater insight into your rights as a victim in a car accident. You can also determine the strength of your case and learn about the compensation that you may be entitled to. Schedule your initial consultation with a car accident attorney today.