In a simple car accident, Driver A and Driver B collide in an intersection. Insurance companies and lawyers for both drivers collect evidence and try to arrive at an agreement on who should pay for what damages. But passengers make the legal and financial problems produced by car accidents a bit more complex. Three important questions have to be answered when a passenger is injured in an accident:
First, was the passenger insured under the driver’s policy? A car insurance policy in the name of Driver A will usually also provide insurance to Driver A’s immediate relatives. That means that Driver A’s wife is technically a client Driver A’s insurance company, so she can’t file a claim against her own liability insurance. But, if the injured passenger is not covered under the policy, then the passenger can file claims with both the insurance company covering the car she was riding in and the other party’s insurance company.
Second, who was at fault for the accident? An injured passenger may file a claim with either or both insurance companies, but the companies themselves will have to work out who pays the claim. If Driver B was entirely responsible for the collision, then Driver B’s insurance company will likely pay for the passenger’s medical treatment. If both drivers were at fault, the insurance companies will usually split the cost.
Third, how much money is at stake? Auto insurance policies have liability caps, but medical treatment for injured passengers may exceed those caps. If a passenger were permanently paralyzed by an accident, for example, it’s likely that neither driver’s insurance would provide full coverage of the passenger’s medical costs. In these circumstances, the passenger may need to pursue a civil case against either or both drivers.
When passengers are involved in car accidents and incur injuries, property damage, or other claimable problems, legal issues become much more complex. Passengers and drivers involved in these sorts of cases should generally seek out legal counsel before agreeing to any settlements.