The internet has thousands and thousands of webpages about filing a car insurance claim after an auto accident. But most of those pages focus on injured drivers, or perhaps even cyclists or pedestrians.
But what happens if you’re a passenger in a car accident? Are passengers covered by car insurance?
You might be surprised to learn that most auto accident claims in California work in essentially the same way, regardless of whether the person making the claim was injured as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian.
Still, the question of whether passengers are covered by car insurance can be a little more complicated simply because, while drivers carry an insurance policy, there is no such thing as “car passenger insurance” per se.
So who pays for your damages? Do you become an “uninsured person” the second you climb into someone’s passenger seat? Not at all!
Let’s take a look at how car insurance coverage works for passengers.
Making a Claim Against the Person Driving You
As with any other auto accident claim, the first and most important question in a passenger injury claim is: who was at fault for the accident?
If the person in the driver’s seat next to you was at fault in the crash, then he or she will be liable for your damages, in the same way that the driver is liable to the people injured in other cars.
Even if no other cars are involved in the collision (for example, the driver accidentally rams a guardrail, tree, or the side of a building), if the driver is at fault, you will be entitled to compensation from that person.
In California, all drivers are required to carry auto insurance. Their insurance provider has a legal duty to cover your damages according to the policy terms (and in accordance with California law).
So are passengers covered by car insurance? Generally speaking, yes. The at-fault driver’s insurance will cover any injured passenger’s damages, up to policy limits. Unfortunately, insurance companies tend to defend against these claims aggressively, and they will do everything they can to avoid paying an injured passenger what they are owed. An experienced Bakersfield auto accident lawyer can help you face off against the insurance company and get the justice you deserve.
Making a Claim Against a Different Driver
Let’s say it isn’t the driver next to you who causes the crash. Rather, it’s the driver of another vehicle who is at fault for the accident. In this situation, passenger insurance coverage generally works the same way: the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will cover any injured passenger’s damages (up to policy limits).
Unfortunately, injured passengers frequently face the same challenges with insurance companies in these types of cases. Here again, an experienced Bakersfield auto accident attorney can help.
What if the Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
What happens if you’re a passenger in a car accident and the at-fault driver is illegally driving without insurance? Alternatively, what if the driver has very basic insurance, but its policy limits aren’t enough to cover your damages? Are passengers covered by car insurance in that case?
Here’s why it is a good idea for everyone in California to carry uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage (UM coverage). This special form of coverage is designed to kick in and cover you in situations like this, where the liable party doesn’t have adequate insurance. Most UM policies will protect you even when you’re a passenger in someone else’s car.
If you did not have UM coverage at the time of the accident, you may still have additional avenues of recovery. Talk to a Bakersfield car accident lawyer about your options.
If you are reading this and still don’t have UM coverage, we encourage you to call your insurance provider and ask about adding it as soon as possible. UM coverage is often available for just a few dollars a month, and it can make all the difference if you’re ever in an accident with an uninsured motorist.
Making a Claim Against Someone Else
Occasionally, a passenger is injured in a car accident and no driver is at fault. There may be a defect in the vehicle, for example, or a dangerous condition in the asphalt caused by roadway neglect. Or perhaps some local teenagers vandalized street signs or stole a stop sign.
In these cases, the injured parties — including passengers — are entitled to recover from any party whose negligence contributes to the crash. Such claims may involve elements of product liability, premises liability, or other areas of California personal injury law.
Alternatively, there may be cases where multiple parties are at fault, drivers and non-drivers alike.
Whatever the case may be, passengers have the same right to compensation as any other injured party. An experienced Bakersfield auto accident lawyer can help you navigate even the most complex scenario.
Is the Passenger Ever at Fault for a Car Accident?
It is rare for a passenger to be assigned fault in a car accident in California. Fundamentally, there isn’t a lot that reasonable passengers can do to cause a car crash on their own.
However, if there is evidence that the passenger was behaving negligently in some way — for example, suddenly wrapping their hands around the driver’s eyes without warning, or punching the driver while the vehicle is in motion — it is possible that the passenger could be found liable for the crash.
A more plausible scenario involves a passenger who knowingly gets in the car with a drunk driver. If the drunk driver then causes a crash, even though the passenger would not be considered liable or at fault for the accident (regardless of whether the passenger was also drunk), it may become more difficult for the passenger to recover compensation for his or her own injuries.
These cases are incredibly complex. If you have been injured as a drunk driver’s passenger, we encourage you to call our office directly and talk about the situation in detail.
The Law Offices of Mickey Fine Can Fight to Maximize Your Compensation
To learn more about your rights and options as an injured passenger in California, please contact The Law Offices of Mickey Fine and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation right away.
We will never charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first. The initial consultation is absolutely free. Call 661-333-3333 or contact us online right away.