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Jim Sellers, Attorney At Law

40+ Years of experience in Personal Injury Law in both Washington and Oregon

Car accidents in cases where you are a passenger

Being in a car accident is already a traumatic experience by itself. But what if you are only along for the ride? Passengers who are injured in a car accident have special considerations that the drivers do not.

If there is any upside to being a passenger injured in a car crash, it's that you are generally not at fault. Therefore there is no argument about liability or attempt to blame you for causing to the accident. This means there is usually less of a delay paying your medical bills or settlement, because you are an innocent party. The hard part is figuring out who is at fault. This is why you need an experienced attorney to help you pursue your claims.

Claims.

Yes. You have the right to file a claim against any or all of the responsible drivers. As a passenger, you are considered an innocent “third party,” and your claim would be filed as such. This means that you are filing a claim with an insurance policy, or policies, other than your own.

What if one of the drivers is a family member, like a parent or spouse? You are still able to file a third party claim against them.

If both drivers are in some way at fault for the accident, filing a claim against both of their insurance companies means that you will have access to both of their insurance policy limits. This is especially helpful if one of the parties had low policy limits (such as $25,000 per person for bodily injury liability) and you have a claim whose value is higher than that. It's also helpful if there are multiple injured parties, all vying for a portion of the same "pot" of money.

One job of insurance claim adjusters is to determine the fault of the drivers in any accident. They will often divide, or apportion, fault between the various drivers. For example, if two cars collide in an intersection, they may apportion 45% fault to one driver and 55% to the other. This means that both insurance companies will owe a settlement to injured passengers but will try to limit their contribution. Also be careful of insurance adjusters who try to put some liability on you. An innocent passenger's recovery can be reduced for a variety of reasons, such as their failure to wear a seatbelt.

Be careful what you sign.

Any time you accept a settlement from an insurance company, you will be required to sign some kind of release form, which excuses the insured from any additional liability, payments or fault. When there are multiple parties involved it's never a good idea to sign any of your rights away without consulting an attorney. You might be cutting off your right to recover other money, such as underinsured motorist coverage. This is why you need to consult an attorney.

While it's never a good thing to be injured in an auto accident, as an innocent passenger you may have multiple avenues of recovery and the best chance of having all of your expenses covered. Contact attorney James Sellers for advice on how to proceed with your claims.