When you get into a car as a passenger, you are entrusting your life to the driver, and to the decision-making skills of every other person on the road. Experiencing a car or truck accident as a passenger can be even more scary, in some ways, than experiencing one as a driver, because you have no control and are vulnerable to every danger without the power to respond.
Fortunately, if you have been injured as a passenger in a vehicle, you have a right to compensation for your physical and emotional suffering. Depending on the situation, you may be able to recover money from the company who insures the driver of the car you were traveling in, or from the insurance company of another vehicle's driver.
First Steps after an Accident
If possible, immediately after you are involved in an accident as a passenger, try to get the insurance information from both drivers involved in the accident. While it might make sense to only acquire the insurance information from the driver whom you understand to be at fault, it is very important to document both drivers insurance in case the insurance companies or police evaluate the crash differently.
In addition, even if you do not feel hurt at the time of the accident, it is always a good idea to see a physician for an evaluation after being involved in a crash. Sometimes, pain or injuries do not show up for days or even a week after an accident. Symptoms of injury such as headaches, blurry vision, pain or stiffness in the neck or back, or even bruises may not appear immediately. When you visit your doctor immediately following an accident, he or she may be able to advise you or symptoms and signs to look out for and help you take preventative measures to ensure the best outcome. Also, be careful not to tell police officers or drivers in the other cars that you are not injured in any way, as they will most likely report it in the police report and to their insurance companies. It is best to wait until you can be evaluated by your doctor and are completely sure that you will not need financial support for your recovery.
If you have been injured in an accident, the next step is to file a claim with an insurance company. It is advisable to seek help from an experienced local attorney before filing any claim or lawsuit. If the accident only involved one car (for instance, if the driver of a car hit a pole or swerved off the road while traveling too fast), you will file your claim with the insurance company of the driver whose car you were in. Most of the time, it is fairly simple to prove that the driver was liable for your injuries because you cannot be liable as a passenger. Sometimes, however, a driver may claim that something else caused the accident, such as ill-maintained roads, an animal running into the road, or a defective mechanism in the vehicle. In this case, it may be more difficult to recover money from the driver's insurance company.
If there were two or more cars involved in the accident, as a passenger, it is almost always best to file claims with both insurance companies before fault is determined. Colorado uses a system of comparative negligence, meaning that the insurance companies will have to determine which percentage of fault each driver is responsible for so that your claim can be paid. It may take a long time for the insurance companies involved to determine each party's comparative negligence. In the end, you may receive money from both insurance providers, but you cannot collect more money that your claim is valued to be worth. This means that the combined compensation from each driver's insurance company should equal the total amount of your claim, and not over.
Minimum Liability Insurance
In the state of Colorado, every driver is required to carry a minimum liability insurance coverage to cover costs of vehicle damage and injury to another driver, pedestrian, or passenger that they cause in an accident. The minimum liability coverage in Colorado is
- $25,000 per person to cover bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident in total if multiple people are injured
- $15,000 per accident for property damage
Many people may choose to purchase more extensive coverage which provides personal injury protection and protection against damage or injury caused by underinsured or uninsured motorists, among other things. It is especially important to note that minimum coverage only provides $50,000 in total per accident to everyone who may have been injured. This means that if multiple passengers are injured in an accident, the total amount that they all will receive cannot exceed $50,000. If the individual claims add up to more than that, the plaintiffs will have to figure out how to allocate the money between themselves and the awards will be cut.
Types of Damages Passengers Can Claim
Injured passengers can claim the same kinds of damages that drivers who are injured in automobile accidents can claim. These include expenses for past and future medical bills, prescription costs, past and future lost income, disfigurement or disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering associated with the accident.
Filing Colorado Passenger Injury Claims Promptly
It is especially important for passengers in car accidents to file claims quickly so that insurance companies can evaluate the settlement while they are determining payouts for all those injured. In addition, car crash passenger victims only have three years after the accident to file a claim or lawsuit. In the case of death, the family members only have two years to file.
Some passengers may feel wary of filing a claim if an acquaintance or friend was driving a car. However, it is important to remember that insurance is designed to protect people financially, and it is not unreasonable to ask for compensation for injuries that you sustain in an accident that you did not cause. Because of the many parties involved in passenger personal injury litigation, it is helpful to consult a lawyer before moving forward with your claim or lawsuit. Call the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal today at (303) 825-2223 for a free case evaluation or contact us online.