Whether or not you’re riding in your own car but somebody else is driving, or you’re riding in a friend or a coworker’s car, if you’re involved in a car accident and you’re a passenger in a car, there are certain bits of information that you need to find out as quickly as possible in order to help protect your rights. Because as a passenger in a car you have options that are very different from the driver of that car, and as a passenger there may be additional insurance coverages that are available to you and only to you that you need to be aware of.
Our goal is to make sure that you know what information is important so that you can ask the right questions after an accident to get all the information you need to help evaluate and protect your rights.
Do you own your own car? If so, do you have insurance on that car?
Let’s talk about the first and most important thing to ask yourself as a passenger in the accident and that is: Do you own your own car? If you do, do you have insurance on that car? Now remember, we’re talking about an accident where you could be a passenger in somebody’s else car and your reaction might be, “Well why do I need to involve my own insurance company? I wasn’t in my car and I wasn’t driving.”
The law in Florida is that if you own a car and you have insurance on that car, then it doesn’t matter whose car you’re riding in. If it’s your friend, if it’s your coworkers, if it’s your Mom or your Dad’s car or your kid’s car, if you’re involved in an accident your insurance will always be involved. First thing it’ll do is help pay what we call no-fault benefits, the PIP coverage that we talk about on our website and in our blog that helps pay 80% of your medical bills.
It comes into play even if you are a passenger in somebody else’s car. It’s important to know that information because you need to make your insurance company aware of the accident because they’re going to have certain documents they want you to fill out to begin providing that type of coverage.
What kinds of coverage do the drivers in the accident have?
Now if you’re riding in somebody else’s car you also need to find out what coverage they have and that can be important for two reasons. The first is if you don’t own a car and you don’t live with any family member who owns a car, then the car you’re riding in as a passenger will pay your medical bills under the no-fault coverage. The other reason though is because as a passenger in somebody else’s car you can benefit from that person’s underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage if they’ve purchased it on their policy.
Now we talk about what we shorten to UM, uninsured or underinsured coverage, UM coverage, but very briefly it’s an extra type of insurance that can help protect you if the person who causes the accident doesn’t have any bodily injury coverage or doesn’t have any car insurance at all. As a passenger in somebody else’s car both their insurance and your own personal insurance can provide you with underinsured or uninsured coverage. So it’s important to know your own personal insurance and the insurance coverage of the car you’re riding in.
Work with law enforcement to get information.
This may seem like a lot to do after an accident but as a passenger you want to make sure that you get the insurance information for the car you were a passenger in, from the driver of the car that you were a passenger in, and from the person that caused the accident. Now law enforcement can get a lot of that information and put it into what we call a short form or an accident report that you can get at a later date but it’s very important to get that information as quickly as possible so that you can put the insurance companies on notice for the fact that you were in the accident and that you were hurt.
The other important thing to keep in mind is sometimes when law enforcement comes to the scene of an accident, there’s going to be a lot of confusion. There could be seriously injured people, multiple parties involved. If you’re a passenger, make sure you let law enforcement know that you were there because there’s a new law that was passed in Florida recently that says if a person isn’t on the accident report, there can be real difficulties in getting insurance companies to recognize that that person was in an accident to begin with. Make sure you let the police know that you were there so that they can put you down on the accident report. You don’t want that to be an issue later on.
How do you file an injury claim as a passenger?
Once you’ve got all the insurance information one of the next questions is: How do you file an injury claim as a passenger? Well, we already talked about trying to get all the information from all the parties that were involved, and you obviously want to make sure that you send letters or you contact those insurance companies to let them know that you were in the accident and that if you’re hurt that you’re considering bringing an injury claim to either pay your past debts or because you have a problem that’s ongoing and you want to make sure they understand that you’re continuing to treat for the injuries that were caused by the car accident.
Unique parts about a claim as a passenger in the vehicle is that there are multiple parties who could be responsible for causing the accident. Now if you were the driver of the car, then obviously you would blame the person that caused the accident but as a passenger, you want to be careful because it’s pretty obvious that you didn’t cause the accident. You were riding with somebody else, but the other insurance company or the other driver may try to put some blame on the person that you were riding with. As a passenger you have potential claims against the driver who caused the accident but also a potential claim about the driver of the car that you were in.
You want to make sure that you talk with you insurance company or consult with a lawyer to consider whether or not you have a valid claim against the driver of the car you were in. Now it may be that that driver was given the ticket at the scene or did play some role in causing the accident, but it may also be that they didn’t do anything wrong. In most cases, that’s not going to be an issue. In most cases, one driver will admit to doing something wrong and they’ll take responsibility for their actions or the police report will make it very clear as to who was responsible.
As a passenger however you need to keep that in mind because if the drivers end up fighting about who was responsible for causing the accident, you may be left with no choice but to bring claims against both drivers to ensure that the responsible party will ultimately compensate you for whatever your damages may be.
Complications with Multiple Passengers
Other potential issues can arise when you’re dealing with multiple passengers in a vehicle. We can think of the example involving a school bus with a dozen or more children, or a city bus with 10 to 15 passengers or even just a car with four passengers, three passengers and a driver. In all of those circumstances you can run into many issues. The first of which is what happens if there’s not enough insurance coverage to compensate everybody who was involved in the accident. That happens more often than not especially in the state of Florida where bodily injury coverage is not required and when the smallest policy that we write in the state of Florida provides only $20,000.00 worth of coverage to potentially compensate people in an accident.
Another potential issue involving passengers are accidents where there are multiple passengers in the same car. For each of those passengers the question will be: Do they have their own car insurance? What car insurance is on the vehicle they’re riding in? What insurance is on the vehicle that caused the accident? But as the number of people involved in an accident grows, the greater the risk that there is insufficient insurance coverage to fairly compensate everybody that was in the accident.
If there simply isn’t enough insurance coverage to fairly compensate everyone, you’re left with a situation in which the driver and the passengers have to come up with a way to reach a fair settlement agreement amongst all parties that are involved. That’s why it’s important to always check whether or not there is available underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage that can help provide additional coverages to the passengers that are involved.
In situations where there are multiple people who have injuries, passengers in cars, it can be important for those passengers to seek out the advice or have a consultation with a lawyer to better understand what coverages are available and what their options are when there’s the real possibility of inadequate coverage. As a passenger in a car accident, especially in light of the cost of healthcare these days, it’s important to know how much insurance coverage is available so that you can gauge what medical treatment you can receive to avoid the risk of having to come out of your own pocket to pay for those expenses when they weren’t caused by any negligence on your part.
Ask the right questions; get help when you need it.
So, to sum up, if you’re a passenger in a car accident make sure you find out what insurance coverages are available from all the parties that were involved. Contact your own insurance company as quickly as possible to make sure they are aware that you were involved in an accident, and consider consulting with an attorney to understand what coverages are available to you so that you can make the best decisions about what healthcare you can seek and who can potentially bring a claim against.
Here at Michles and Booth, our attorneys handle personal injury and wrongful death claims on behalf of drivers and passengers across the state of Florida and the state of Alabama. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident, contact us today for a free consultation. We’ll do everything in our power to answer your questions and help you understand what your rights are under the laws. We’re here to answer your questions and help you understand your rights. Call us today at 1-800-438-3606 or contact us through our online live chat.
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