Passenger in Car Accident Florida

Passenger in Car Accident Florida

Being a passenger in a car accident is an extremely scary and difficult event to go through — and it’s more common than many people realize. Car accidents in Florida rank among the nation’s highest number of crashes. If you are a commuter in the Tampa Bay area you likely experience frequent slowdowns due to accidents on major roadways including I-4, I-275, or the Courtney Campbell Causeway, which certainly backs up the data.

Some things tend to be more common knowledge regarding crashes than others. Most people may know about exchanging insurance information, waiting for the police to arrive to prepare a report, and filing claims with insurance companies as a driver. But what do you do if you are a passenger?

What to Do if You’re Injured in a Car Accident as a Passenger in Florida

If you are the passenger in a car accident, you may qualify to file a personal injury lawsuit under Florida Law for any damages or injuries. One of the primary factors that need to be determined is which driver was at fault. This is why it is so important to notify both law enforcement and insurance after an accident to ensure a proper investigation.

Each accident is different. Sometimes only one person is liable for the crash, while in other cases, both parties may be at fault. In this situation, you may have to file a claim against both drivers.

For example, if you suffer $50,000 in damages, and evidence points to the fact that both drivers are equally at fault. You’d be able to recover $25,000 from each of them. If it turns out that one driver is 80% responsible, that driver will have to pay 80% of the damages, while the other driver would have to pay the remaining 20%.

Can a Passenger Be Liable in a Car Accident?

One question that many passengers have is whether they themselves can be held liable in any way for the accident. By definition, a passenger is someone who is not responsible for operating the vehicle. This means that typically the passenger is not held liable in a car accident, but there are exceptions.

Situations where a passenger could be found to be at least partially negligent, liable, or accountable for an accident include:

  • Operating the vehicle as a passenger, such as by reaching over and grabbing the steering wheel in a reckless manner
  • Enabling or encouraging a driver to drive recklessly or who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Incapacitating or distracting the driver in any way

Additionally, the passenger may be unable to receive compensation if he or she knowingly gets into a vehicle with someone who is mentally or physically unable to drive.

How does a passenger no-fault claim work?

In Florida, the law requires all car insurance companies to provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP) with all of their policies. This protection is put in place to cover damages suffered by:

  • The named insured
  • Relatives who live in the same home as the insured
  • Persons driving the insured’s car
  • Passengers in the insured’s car
  • Other persons struck by the insured’s car

PIP covers 80% of the medical bills of those individuals listed, as well as 60% of lost wages, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. All you have to do is file a claim within 14 days of the accident.

At Clark Hartpence Law, we recommend filing a claim as soon as possible so that injuries can’t be blamed on something other than the accident — such as playing sports or falling a few days after the crash. The insurance company does have the right to investigate the claim but is required to issue payment within 30 days. Overdue payments are subject to interest rates.

If your damages are more than $10,000, then you could file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party or parties for anything more than that amount. This could also include claims for pain and suffering.

If your friend or family member was partly at fault, you can file a claim against them as well as file a claim against the other driver. Or, you could file a claim against the other driver alone and pay the difference out of your pocket.

Determining Compensation for Personal Injury Claim

The goal of personal injury compensation is to fully make up for any damage or injury as the result of an accident. Basically, any damages awarded are intended to make the plaintiff whole again.

The process of putting a dollar amount on this idea is highly complicated. In addition to medical costs, property damage, and lost income, which are usually easier to quantify, there is also emotional damage and pain and suffering. If emotional distress, psychological trauma, and other issues directly related to an accident are negatively affecting the quality of life, a passenger can be entitled to sue for these damages.

What Happens During Litigation?

Just because you were the passenger doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically receive everything you think you’re owed. For example, if the accident was caused by something out of the control of all drivers involved, such as a tree falling or an alligator walking in the middle of the road at night, you wouldn’t prevail on your negligence claim.

Your injuries also have to be the direct result of the accident. So, if there was acute back pain before the crash, and you include damages for back pain in your lawsuit, the defendant or person suing can request prior medical records or ask you questions under oath to find out more details about the previous injury. This may reduce the amount received for damages based on which portions pre-existed the accident.

If there were several passengers involved in the accident, then your money received could also be reduced. If everyone suffered injuries and lost days at work, everyone is still bound by the negligent person’s insurance policy limits, so the amount you could collect would be reduced.

If the car accident happened while you were working, such as traveling in a company car, making deliveries, or otherwise being in a motor vehicle as part of your job obligations, you may have a Worker’s Compensation claim that could affect your personal injury claim. You’ll have to resolve both claims, and all the special considerations will be taken into account for each.

How an Attorney Can Help

Fortunately, you don’t have to go through all of this alone. Even if you were a passenger in a car accident, an attorney can help ensure you receive any and all compensation you are entitled to.

Attorneys are essential during the discovery process. They schedule depositions of opposing parties, witnesses, and applicable experts, such as doctors and accident reconstruction experts, to determine fault. During a deposition, the lawyer prepares and asks a list of questions. The party getting deposed has to answer them under oath. If the party being deposed has an attorney, their lawyer can object to any questions they don’t deem appropriate or applicable.

Next, the parties can begin settlement negotiations. If there’s no settlement agreement, the case moves on to trial. Your attorney will present all the evidence collected during the discovery process to help you receive the maximum payout.

Contact the Car Accident Lawyers at Clark Hartpence Law If You’ve Been Involved in a Car Accident

There are many things that can affect the outcome of a car accident claim, regardless of whether you’re the driver or the passenger. This is why it’s crucial to talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Not doing so could greatly affect your chances of receiving an adequate recovery for your damages.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.