When you are injured as a passenger in a car involved in an accident, who pays your medical bills and other expenses and damages? The answer is: It can be complicated. Jeff Brooke, a car accident lawyer in Virginia Beach, explains who might pay and helps you determine what to do when you are an injured passenger.
Who Is At Fault — and Why Does It Matter in Virginia?
To answer the second question, fault matters in Virginia because state law holds the at-fault driver responsible for injuries and damages resulting from an accident he or she caused. While other states have “no-fault” insurance laws, Virginia does not.
Deciding who is at fault in an accident is often not a simple matter. One thing is clear: a passenger is almost never at fault in an accident. The only exception involves an intentional act — like grabbing the wheel of the car — that caused the accident.
Police reports include evidence that usually sheds light on the cause of the accident, but insurance companies can still argue over which driver is at fault when two or more cars are involved. The companies and their adjusters will always try to get away with paying the least amount of damages, regardless of the circumstances of the accident. So, it is in their best interest to claim that their driver is not at fault if the circumstances are the least bit ambiguous.
If a lawsuit is filed, and the case goes to trial, the judge or jury decides who is responsible. At any point before that, the question of fault can be open to debate, depending on the circumstances.
What Can An Injured Passenger Do?
If you are an injured passenger, you can file a claim against the driver of the car in which you were riding. If other vehicles were involved, you can also file a claim against the other drivers. Because fault is often not clear in the early stages, the safest thing to do is file with both insurance companies. That way, all of your losses will be covered. There are some cases, depending on your own insurance coverage, when your own insurance company also may pay for some of your expenses.
Cases involving injured passengers pose some difficult questions. When you are riding in a car, the driver is most likely a friend, family member, or a co-worker. It’s difficult to consider filing a claim against that person’s insurance company. What is important to remember is that you are filing a claim with an insurance company, not against the person. People carry liability insurance for this very reason. If someone is injured while a person is driving, it is the insurance company that pays, not the person.
In addition, if you choose only to make a claim against the driver of the other car, that other driver can make a claim against your driver and even file a lawsuit against him or her. That could result in a judgment against your driver, even if you don’t file a claim with his or her insurance company.
What Will I Be Paid For My Injuries?
When you are injured as a passenger, there are a number of different items that you may be compensated for. They include:
- Medical expenses, including on-going and long-term treatment
- Lost wages
- Lost future income, if your injury affects your future work
- Pain and suffering
- Modifications to your home to accommodate a disability from the injury
Often, in the immediate aftermath of an accident, an injured passenger does not realize that there can be long-lasting effects from an injury. Those longer term effects may be compensable in damages. If your injuries are serious, that is one reason why it is so important to talk with a personal injury lawyer before even talking with any insurance companies or adjusters. Certainly, you should talk with an attorney before agreeing to any settlement with an insurance company.
When Should I Talk with a Car Accident Lawyer in Virginia Beach?
If you suffered significant injuries as a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident in southeastern Virginia or North Carolina — or if you lost a loved one who was a passenger in a car — The Jeff Brooke Team is here to help. Jeff Brooke is a car accident lawyer in Virginia Beach. Attorney Brooke has substantial experience helping injured passengers and their families and recovering the compensation they deserve after an accident. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.