Car accident claims are rarely cut and dry. This is especially the case whenever a passenger becomes injured. You may be unsure who to file a claim with or feel hesitant to do so because you do not want to damage your relationship with the driver of your vehicle. Working with an attorney for injured passengers in Houston can help you to think objectively and make the best choices for your specific needs. Read below to learn more about cases like this and then contact our law firm to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with our legal team.
Getting immediate medical attention for yourself and others involved in the crash should always be your first priority after a car accident. But, after everyone is safe and the police are at the scene, you can take steps to help yourself get full compensation for your injuries.
You’ll need to gather information and evidence for your car accident case, including:
- insurance information for any person and vehicle involved in the accident
- names and phone numbers of witnesses
- pictures of the accident scene
- pictures of your injuries, and
- a copy of the police report when it’s available.
You’ll also want to keep your own detailed records of:
- all medical treatment and bills you receive as a result of the accident
- lost earnings for accident-related time off of work
- transportation costs
- increased or new household expenses stemming from the accident, and
- costs associated with canceled trips or altered plants.
The evidence you gather at the scene of the accident will help you prove who was at fault for the accident. The records you keep during the aftermath will help you prove your losses (“damages”).
The Hassle of Getting a Police Report
You’ll need a police report to support your description of the accident. But getting your hands on one might prove frustrating and time-consuming. In this era of identity theft, police departments will require that you have a legitimate reason for the report, and will demand proof of identity before they release the report to you. Get the incident number from the police who responded to the scene, and find out how quickly their department typically processes reports; ask exactly what kind of identifying information you’ll need to bring with you and how much a copy of the report will cost you. Most departments charge an administrative fee for the report (typically around $20) or charge you a copying fee per page.
Filing a Passenger Injury Insurance Claim
Injured passengers need to figure out who might be responsible (liable) for their accident-related losses. Options typically include one or more of the following:
- the drivers involved in the accident
- the owners of all cars involved in the accident if the owners are different from the drivers
- the employer of a driver if the driver was on company business at the time of the accident
- the parent of a minor driver involved in the accident
- anyone who contributed to the accident (like a jaywalking pedestrian), and
- your own auto and health care insurers.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of how a passenger injury claim might play out.
Drivers and Car Owners
If you’re a passenger injured in a car accident, you might file a claim against:
- the liability insurance coverage of the driver or owner of the car you were riding in, and
- the liability coverage of the driver or owner of any other vehicle involved in the accident.
You can’t collect from both drivers and owners more than your claim is worth, but if one driver or owner is uninsured or underinsured you can make up the rest of your losses (called “damages”) from another. You might also rely on your own underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage (see below).
The Insurer of Your Driver (Or Owner of the Car)
Let’s say your best friend is driving you to dinner in her car when she hits a tree. Drivers who hit stationary objects typically do something (or fail to do something) while driving that amounts to negligence, like speeding or not paying attention to the road. You’ll submit a claim to your friend’s insurance company. You might receive a settlement offer pretty quickly, but you might need to negotiate your way to a better outcome. If the insurer denies part or all of your claim, you might need to file a lawsuit (see below).
If your friend was borrowing her cousin’s car at the time of the accident, you can submit a claim against her cousin’s insurance company and your friend’s carrier. The insurance companies will sort out which policy will pay for your damages (primary) and which policy will kick in if the primary policy isn’t enough to cover your losses (secondary).
The Insurer of the Other Driver (Or Owner of the Other Car)
Now say your best friend is driving you to dinner in her car when she hits another car. You’re injured and end up with $25,000 in medical bills. You aren’t sure who is at fault for the accident. To try to get full compensation, you should file a claim against the insurer of your friend’s car and the insurer of the other driver’s car. (The insurer might be the drivers or owners of the cars involved in the accident, or both.)
If your friend’s policy limit is $10,000, the other driver’s coverage might kick in the remaining $15,000. But you can’t recover more than $25,000 total from either or both insurers. This means that you can’t “double dip” by getting, for example, $20,000 from your friend and $20,000 from the other driver.
If it’s obvious that only one driver is at fault for the accident, filing claims with both insurers might just slow the process down. For example, if you’re injured in a rear-end crash (where typically the rear-ended car will not be faulted), you might not bother filing an injury claim against the driver of the lead (rear-ended) car.
What If My Spouse or Relative Was Driving the Car?
Most insurance policies cover the person or people named in the policy (the named insured). They almost always cover the named insured’s spouse too and other licensed drivers living in the household who are related to the named insured.
So, if you are riding in a car driven by a relative with whom you live, you probably won’t be able to file a liability claim against the driver because you are likely insured under the same policy. You can’t file a liability claim against your own liability coverage.
Of course, if another driver was at-fault for an accident, you can make a claim against that driver’s (or car owner’s) policy. If your driver was at-fault, some of your medical bills might be covered by personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, medical payment coverage (MedPay), or your own health insurance.
Affordable Attorney For Injured Passenger in Houston
If you were a passenger that suffered car accident injuries in Houston, Texas and are looking for legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney, call our firm. We provide free consultations to help determine if our personal injury law firm can help you to recover compensation for the damages you have suffered.