When a car accident occurs, the fault usually lies with one or more of the drivers involved, but passengers often suffer some of the most serious injuries. If you have been injured in a crash in which you were a passenger, you should know that you do have the ability to pursue compensation for your damages, but it is important to determine who is responsible so that you have the best chance of recovering the greatest amount possible.
Passenger Injuries in Different Kinds of Accidents
An injured passenger’s options for pursuing compensation usually depend on the other parties involved in the accident. Often, one of the following situations applies:
- The accident involved only the vehicle in which the passenger was traveling. When a passenger is injured in a single-vehicle accident, the driver of the vehicle is usually fully liable for the passenger’s damages. However, many people are reluctant to bring a claim against a friend or family member who may have caused the accident. Wisconsin has a “direct action” statute, which allows the injured person to recover all his or her damages from just the insurance company, thus avoiding the need to sue a friend or family member and as a result, helping to maintain those important relationships. If the liability coverage for the responsible driver is insufficient, and the passenger is covered on another automobile liability policy with sufficient underinsured motorist coverage, then additional damages may be covered under that policy. Although in most circumstances it is best to use government or private health insurance for medical bills, passengers in the vehicle may also benefit from the medical payments coverage on the auto insurance policy on the vehicle for bills not covered by health insurance. If the passenger is covered on another auto insurance policy, they may also be able to use the medical payment coverage on that policy to cover medical bills not covered by health insurance.
- The accident involved at least one other vehicle, and the other driver was fully at fault. In this case, the best option is for the passenger to file a claim or a lawsuit against the other driver. However, if other people were injured in the accident, the negligent driver’s liability insurance limits may be less than the passenger’s damages. In these cases, another auto insurance policy with underinsured motorist coverage may provide coverage for the passenger’s damages.
- The accident involved multiple at-fault parties. In some cases, the driver of the car in which the passenger was traveling may share responsibility for the accident with another driver. In such a situation, Wisconsin’s comparative negligence law applies. This means that each of the negligent parties is responsible for a portion of the passenger’s damages based on their percentage of fault in causing the crash. While a passenger can make a claim for 100% of their damages against the parties who are 51% or more at fault, they also have the option of bringing claims against the insurance companies for both drivers, particularly if the driver with the most fault does not have adequate insurance limits. In some cases, this results in a larger settlement or verdict in the passenger’s favor, because there are other means of recovering compensation even after one driver’s liability insurance limit has been reached.
Contact an Appleton Personal Injury Attorney
Regardless of who is at fault, it is important for injured passengers to work with an attorney who can help them build a case supported by evidence of the drivers’ negligence, including photos and videos, police reports, and testimony from witnesses to the collision. The Green Bay car accident lawyers at Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd. will thoroughly investigate your case and advocate for your needs in pursuit of a fair result. Contact us at 920-739-7366 to schedule a free consultation.