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What to Do as an Injured Passenger

George Aldrich March 26, 2022

When you search car accidents on the internet, several articles about drivers receiving personal injury settlements when another driver is responsible for the crash come up. But what about the passengers in the injured driver’s vehicle?

In most cases, injured passengers have more options for filing bodily injury claims. Passengers can usually file claims even in accidents involving only the vehicle they were riding in. If you have been injured as a passenger in Lakeport, Woodland Hills, California, or Lake, Los Angeles, Colusa, Riverside counties, or any northern or southern California county, reach out to G. Aldrich Law.

Injured passengers suffer harm just like injured drivers. If compensation is available under someone’s insurance coverage, you should get it. You will probably need an experienced personal injury attorney to help.

Who’s At Fault in California Car Accidents?

California is a fault state for auto accidents, so those injured by a negligent driver can file a claim against that at-fault driver’s insurance coverage. California requires auto owners to have coverage in one of four ways:

  1. Auto insurance policy with minimum coverages of $15,000 per person, $30,000 per person per accident, and $5,000 for property damage;

  2. A certificate of self-insurance from the Department of Motor Vehicles;

  3. A $35,000 cash deposit held by the DMV; or,

  4. A $35,000 surety bond issued by a company licensed by the state.

California also observes pure comparative fault, so even if the injured person was partially responsible for the car wreck, they could be eligible to recover compensation. In most cases, the passenger is not responsible for the accident. However, there are accidents for which the passenger may share some fault.

Who Can I File a Claim Against?

Injured passengers have some options for filing claims, depending on the circumstances of the crash, the value of damages, and the insurance policy limits of the various parties involved. There are three possible places:

  1. You can file a claim against the drivers of other vehicles in the case of a crash involving two or more vehicles, so long as other drivers are assigned at least some percentage of fault for the accident. The claim will file against the driver’s bodily injury liability coverage under any of the four coverage options they have.

  2. You can file a claim against the insurance coverage carried by the driver of the vehicle. You can file a claim against their medical payment benefits coverage regardless of fault for the accident. This coverage isn’t required by California law so your driver may not have it. You also may be able to file a claim against your driver’s bodily injury liability coverage, so long as you aren’t an immediate family member covered under the same policy.

  3. You can claim your medical payment or “medpay” benefits if you have that coverage under your insurance policy. Again, claiming medical payment benefits can be done regardless of who is at fault for an accident.

For example, you are riding in a vehicle driven by Driver A. Driver B causes an accident, and you suffer injuries and economic and noneconomic damages with a value of $100,000. Driver A is undergoing injuries with the same value of damages.

Driver A has medpay coverage limits of $5,000, and you have medpay coverage limits of $5,000 under your insurance policy; therefore, you can claim $10,000 under the combined policies regardless of fault.

Driver B’s liability coverage is $100,000 per person per accident. Since you and Driver A are suffering injuries to the same degree, you may receive $50,000 in a settlement. Although, your attorney will be fighting to get more than half of this amount for you, especially if some of the fault can be assigned to your driver.

With medpay benefits and Driver B’s coverage, you have $60,000, but your damages are $100,000. You may be able to file a claim against the bodily injury liability coverage of Driver A’s insurance policy to recover the difference, so long as their policy limits are sufficient. If Driver A’s limits are also $50,000, you could be made whole.

Are Passengers Ever at Fault?

Passengers will have a percentage of fault for a car crash if their actions contributed to it. For example, if you distract the driver to the point where they couldn't react to an oncoming vehicle.

If you are assigned passenger liability, any third-party recovery will reduce your share of fault under the pure comparative negligence rule. So, for example, if you are held 10% at fault for the crash, your settlement would reduce by 10%.

How G. Aldrich Law Can Help

Insurance companies rarely settle claims without a fight. Whatever third-party claims you assert will be met with opposition, first by attempts to lower the value of your claim and second by attempts to place some percentage of fault on you. In addition, our experienced personal injury attorneys are well-versed in knowing how insurance companies work and can help your case.

At G. Aldrich Law, we fully investigate the circumstances of a crash, discover all potential insurance coverages, and work diligently to garner compensation that will make you whole. It isn’t always easy, but it is what we do for injured passengers in Woodland Hills, Lakeport, or in Lake, Los Angeles, Colusa, or Riverside counties, or any northern or southern California county.

Call now to schedule a free case consultation. We are ready to begin.