As a passenger in a private vehicle, the chances are you know the driver. Maybe he or she is a friend of yours, or even a relative. Because of this, many people are hesitant to sue, or even to make a claim for damages, fearing that in doing so, they’ll be hurting their friend or relative.
The fact is that in most cases, even if you collect money from the driver’s insurance company, it doesn’t come out of the driver’s pocket, it’s the insurance company that pays. Also, some cases settle quickly, and there may not even be a need to name the driver in a lawsuit. Finally, just because your friend/relative was the driver of the car in which you were injured, it does not mean he or she will be held liable for your loss. Depending on the circumstances, the other driver may be at fault for the accident.
How are Passenger Injury Cases Different?
In most car crashes, there is an issue of who was at fault. When you are injured as a passenger, the strong likelihood is that the fault lies with the driver of your car, the driver of another vehicle, or some other condition (construction zone issues, road problems, etc.) over which you had no control and for which you have no legal responsibility. As a result, a passenger typically has no legal liability for a car crash. The question then becomes which parties and/or insurance companies may be responsible for your damages, including medical and hospital bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Who is Responsible for my Losses?
Arizona is a comparative fault state. This means that a driver can be determined to be partially at fault for a particular percentage of the crash, with the remaining fault divided among other drivers, car manufacturers (design flaws or manufacturing defects), and others. Each of those persons or companies may bear some percentage of the fault for the car crash. As a general rule, if a person is 75% at fault, he or she (and/or their insurance company) will be responsible for 75% of the resulting damages caused by their negligence.
As an injured passenger, car insurance is sure to play a role in recovering damages for your losses. The rules can be complicated, so talk to an attorney lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.
Tips for Avoiding Accidents as a Passenger
When you get into a car or truck as a passenger, you are literally placing your safety and your life in the hands of the driver; however, there are steps you can take to minimize the danger of an injury:
- Impaired Driving (DUI). Never get into a vehicle if you know or suspect that the driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs. Almost 4% of all accidents in Arizona involve alcohol use. Alcohol is also involved in almost 6% of fatal crashes (over 300 deaths), and more than 3,000 injuries.
- Seat Belts. According to the Arizona DOT, seat belt use is on the rise. Yet failure to wear a seat belt is a leading factor in Arizona traffic fatalities, and unbelted occupants comprise around 25% of all traffic deaths.
- Do Not Create Distractions. Don’t engage in behavior as a passenger that is likely to distract the driver. Loud conversations, attending to the wants and needs of others (including children), and similar behavior can draw the driver’s attention away from the roadway and increase the likelihood of an accident.
- Phone Use. If the driver is texting while driving, as a passenger, you have every right to say something. Today, texting while driving is probably the primary reason for distracted driving.
While you may find some comfort in the fact that as a passenger, there is little chance you’ll be found liable for your injuries, the goal is to avoid being injured in the first place. These tips can go a long way toward making your trip safe and uneventful.
Phoenix Passenger Injury Claims
Liability issues aside, the mix of responsibility, insurance claims, and comparative negligence can create some complex legal issue. If you were a passenger who has been injured in a car accident, get the guidance and direction you need. Call John Kelly, an experienced personal injury lawyer, to find out how to maximize your recovery.
Call the Kelly Law Team at 602-283-4122