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Legal Options for Passengers in Vehicle Crashes

If you've ever been in an accident as a driver, then you may be at least somewhat familiar with the process of filing an insurance claim and pursuing compensation for damages and expenses related to your accident. However, what if you're in an accident as a passenger in another person's vehicle? Very few people in this situation understand their unique rights, and even fewer accident victims know what their options are when it comes to being compensated fairly for their injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages, or other expenses.

If you've recently been injured as a passenger in another person's vehicle, there is some good news. Believe it or not, injured passengers often have more options as their disposal than the drivers of the vehicles themselves. This, in turn, can increase your chances of being able to reach a fair settlement for your case.

Did the Accident Occur in a No-Fault State?

The first step in the process will be to determine whether the accident occurred in a no-fault state or a state that assigns fault for motor vehicle crashes. If you live in a no-fault state, then your options for seeking compensation will be a little more limited (i.e., filing a claim against the insurance company of the vehicle you were in at the time of the accident). However, if you live in a state that assigns fault, you may have additional options. And because many states that assign fault do so through a police report, having a copy of the report for your accident can be useful before moving forward here.

Claims Against the Driver's Insurance

If you live in an at-fault state and the driver of the vehicle you were in is determined to be at legal fault for the accident, then you will have the right to file a claim against his or her auto insurance policy. The driver should have been carrying at least state minimum coverage for the bodily injury and property damage, so you may be entitled to compensation for up to the "per-person" amount on their policy. This can usually cover expenses related to medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the like. One exception to this would be if your're related to the driver and already covered under their general insurance policy, so be sure to read the fine print if this scenario applies to you.

Did the Accident Occur in a No-Fault State?

The first step in the process will be to determine whether the accident occurred in a no-fault state or a state that assigns fault for motor vehicle crashes. If you live in a no-fault state, then your options for seeking compensation will be a little more limited (i.e., filing a claim against the insurance company of the vehicle you were in at the time of the accident). However, if you live in a state that assigns fault, you may have additional options. And because many states that assign fault do so through a police report, having a copy of the report for your accident can be useful before moving forward here.

Claims Against the Driver's Insurance

If you live in an at-fault state and the driver of the vehicle you were in is determined to be at legal fault for the accident, then you will have the right to file a claim against his or her auto insurance policy. The driver should have been carrying at least state minimum coverage for bodily injury and property damage, so you may be entitled to compensation for up to the "per-person" amount on their policy. This can usually cover expenses related to medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the like. One exception to this would be if you're related to the driver and already covered under their general insurance policy, so be sure to read the fine print if this scenario applies to you.

Claims Against Another Driver's Insurance

If another driver is found to be at fault for the accident, then your best bet will likely be to file a claim against that driver's auto insurance policy. Or, in the event that you live in a state that can assign partial fault, you may end up filing claims against both insurance companies in order to maximize your compensation. Keep in mind, however, that if you go this route, you will still only be able to collect up to the total determined value of your claim. Still, this can be a good way to avoid being "ripped off" by one insurance company and optimizing your ability to receive the compensation you need to fully cover your accident-related expenses.

How an Accident Attorney Can Help

In some cases, it may be possible to file a claim against your own insurance company- even if you were in another person's vehicle as a passenger at the time of the accident. The process of filing and pursuing insurance claims for an accident as a passenger can be quite complex, however, which is why having an experienced accident attorney on your side can make all the difference. An attorney will be able to assess the details of your case and ultimately help you decide which course of legal action makes the most sense for your needs.


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