What Should I Do if I Have Been Injured as a Passenger in a Car Accident?
Drivers are not the only people who can be hurt in a car accident, passengers can suffer injuries as well. When this happens, those passengers have the right to seek compensation to help pay for medical treatment, lost wages, and even emotional distress in some cases.
It can be difficult for passengers who are accident survivors to understand what to do first. Passengers who have been injured in a car accident should take a few steps:
- Seek medical treatment right away. Getting medical care sooner rather than later helps support the claim that the injury happened during the crash. It can also prevent an injury from worsening.
- Passengers should obtain documents for evidence. These documents can include medical reports, medical invoices, a letter from an employer, the police report from the accident scene, and any citations the at-fault driver received. It cannot hurt to have too much evidence.
- Speak with a personal injury lawyer. Passengers should not hesitate to at least speak with a personal injury lawyer following a serious car accident. Trying to heal and recover while going through the claims process can be frustrating and stressful. For many passengers, working with a lawyer is the best solution to recovering appropriate damages.
Duty of Care Drivers Owe to Passengers
When drivers agree to have passengers in their car, they have taken on a duty of care. This means they owe it to their passengers to act with care at all times. For instance, a driver who obeys the speed limit and does not text while driving is being conscientious and trying to live up to their duty of care. On the other hand, an aggressive driver who speeds and puts their passengers at risk is not fulfilling their duty of care.
Also, passengers may or may not know their drivers. Many passengers agree to ride with family, friends, colleagues, clients, or other familiar people. This is not always the situation, though. What if a passenger uses a rideshare or taxi service? The passenger is unlikely to know the driver. The same is true for a passenger on a bus.
The bottom line is that the relationship between the driver and passenger does not change the driver’s duty of care.
What if a Driver Breaches Their Duty of Care?
When drivers breach their duty of care, an accident and injuries can happen. Even a seemingly minor fender-bender can injure passengers.
Some common injuries passengers can suffer from include:
- Neck injuries.
- Broken bones.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries.
- Chemical, thermal, or electric burns.
It is worth noting that since children tend to be much smaller than adults, they may suffer more extensive injuries in accidents. Their parents or guardians would be the ones to seek compensation on their behalf.
Compensation Available for Injured Passengers
Passengers who have been hurt have a few ways to potentially recover compensation.
The first type of compensation can be obtained through the passenger’s personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. All drivers who own cars in New Jersey must cover a minimum amount of PIP, which is set at $15,000. Passengers who have their own auto insurance policies are eligible to receive funds through PIP. It is worth mentioning that PIP only covers medical-related expenses. Your type of coverage will affect your ability to sue the at-fault driver.
What if a passenger does not have PIP insurance? The passenger may be able to tap into PIP if they are covered by a family member’s auto insurance policy. For example, many children are covered by a parent’s policy. The passenger may also be able to receive PIP compensation from the policy of the driver they rode with at the time of the accident.
Although receiving $15,000 to offset medical bills is a relief, $15,000 may not be enough to cover the long-term costs of a significant injury. Plus, PIP does not cover any costs not associated with health care diagnosis, transportation, treatment, etc. This is why many injured passengers submit claims against one or both drivers’ insurance.
The problem is that many claims are denied by insurance companies. Even if the claim is not denied, the insurance carrier may offer a settlement figure that is far below what the passenger deserves and needs. This is why hurt passengers often rely on the assistance of a personal injury lawyer.
Why Passengers Sometimes Hesitate to File Claims?
Even after being hurt in a car accident, passengers can be reluctant to file claims or seek compensation. Typically, this is because the driver is someone they know. They may feel uncomfortable submitting a claim because they worry that their relationship with the driver will suffer as a result.
Passengers in this position need to remember the insurance claim is not sought against the driver. The claim is sought against the insurance company. Filing an insurance claim does not mean a driver will be arrested or criminally charged. Again, the driver is not personally affected in the insurance process.
Statute of Limitations
Passengers do need to keep legal deadlines in mind. In New Jersey, you have two years to file a personal injury claim, which starts on the date of the accident.
Two years may sound like a lot of time, but that can go by quickly, especially if the accident survivor needs a lot of medical treatment. Working with a lawyer can help you meet legal deadlines.
Highland Park Personal Injury Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Help Injured Passengers With Their Claims
Being injured as a passenger can be overwhelming. If you need legal assistance, speak with one of our committed Highland Park personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr. Call us at 732-537-8570 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.