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Passenger in a Car Accident: Liability, Damages, and Third-Party Claims

Driving is not always a solo activity, and neither are car accidents.

When drivers take the wheel, they are responsible for the safety of their passengers as well as pedestrians, motorcycle drivers, bike riders, and other motorists on the road around them. If you were a passenger in someone else’s car and a crash occurred, you may have the right to be compensated for your injuries and accident-related expenses, just like any other person involved in the accident.

In car accident claims, plaintiffs must be able to prove liability (who was at fault) and damages (how badly they were injured). Since passengers are typically not responsible for a crash, the focus of a third-party claim is usually on damages.

Car Accident Liability: Who Is at Fault?

Someone else—other than any passengers involved—is likely liable for the car accident. In one-car crashes, the driver of the vehicle is probably held responsible. In two-car or multi-car crashes, one or multiple drivers are often going to be at fault.

The driver or drivers who acted negligently may ultimately be liable for a passenger’s damages. A passenger could file a “third-party claim” against the at-fault driver(s), and you may want an experienced car accident attorney to assist you in such a claim.

Can a Passenger Be Responsible for an Accident?

Passengers are typically not at fault for a car accident. However, there are some actions that may implicate a passenger or minimize a passenger’s claim, such as the following:

  • Contributing to the crash by distracting or physically harming the driver
  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Riding in a vehicle while knowing the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Delaying medical care after the accident

Indiana is a comparative fault state, so if passengers are found to be partially responsible for the accident, their damages could be reduced.

Damages and Compensation for Passengers

The compensation awarded in a personal injury claim such as a car accident claim is called damages. Both economic and non-economic losses could be recovered after a crash, including the following:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Physical disfigurement or impairment
  • Mental anguish

After a car accident, it’s in your best interest to see a doctor as soon as possible to catalog your injuries and preserve evidence of the accident. Some injuries, such as whiplash, may not show symptoms for days, weeks, or months after the crash. Go to the doctor right away if you feel any pain, discomfort, or indication of injury.

How much compensation a passenger can recover in a car accident claim varies widely based on the severity of the injuries and other circumstances surrounding the accident. An attorney can help you calculate your damages.

Filing a Passenger Injury Claim

A claim made by a passenger against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy is called a third-party claim. Depending on the accident, passengers may be able to file a third-party claim against the other driver or even the driver of the vehicle they were riding in during the crash.

Unfortunately, there are some situations where a passenger is caught in a dispute between two insurance companies over which driver is most liable, which could cause a delay in potential recovery.

In some cases, passengers may need to make more than one injury claim. If, for example, more than one driver acted negligently, and if the driver with the most responsibility does not have enough insurance coverage for the passenger’s losses, the passenger may be able to file a claim against the other driver in order to receive more appropriate compensation.

What If the Passenger Is Related to the Driver?

Indiana Code 34-30-11, known as the Guest Statute, establishes that a passenger cannot file a claim for damages against a driver who falls into any of the following categories:

  • Parent
  • Spouse
  • Child or stepchild
  • Sibling

Additionally, if the driver picked up the passenger as a hitchhiker and did not receive payment, the driver cannot be held liable.

The exception to Indiana’s Guest Statute is if the driver displayed wanton or willful misconduct.

What If There Are Multiple Injured Passengers?

When multiple passengers are injured in a car crash and file claims against the negligent driver, their combined damages may exceed the driver’s insurance coverage. The passengers may therefore have to settle with the at-fault driver for less than what may be considered appropriate.

An auto accident attorney can help you determine the best avenue to compensation for your injuries.

Contact a Passenger Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a passenger in a car accident, contact the Indianapolis Automobile Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you recover for the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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