If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, dealing with the insurance company can be very confusing and complicated, especially when there are questions about which driver is liable. For passengers who are injured in car collisions, the situation can be overwhelming. They might not know which driver is responsible or how they might recover compensation for their losses. Fortunately, the rights of the passenger in a car accident can be determined. At the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave, our experienced personal injury attorneys help injured passengers identify all of the potential sources of recovery so that they might obtain fair compensation.
What Are the Rights of the Passenger in a Car Accident?
Passengers who are riding in vehicles that are involved in collisions have several options for recovering compensation. All drivers owe a duty to use the highest degree of care.
The first step in determining the rights of the passenger in a car accident is determining who was at fault in causing the collision. Often, more than one driver in a collision shares in the fault. An early investigation into the facts is very important, including a review police reports, talking to witnesses, and obtaining statements from the involved drivers.
Passenger Rights Against the Other Vehicle Drivers
When the driver of another vehicle is determined to be at fault for the collision, an injured passenger can file a claim against that driver’s insurance policy. The passenger is legally entitled to recover compensation for his or her economic and noneconomic losses up to the policy limits. However, if several people are injured in the collision, the other driver’s policy limit may include a maximal per-accident limit that may not be enough to cover all of the injuries and losses.
Passenger Rights When the Driver of the Same Vehicle Was at Fault
When a passenger is injured in a collision that was caused by the driver of the car in which the passenger was riding, the passenger may file a claim against the insurance policy covering that driver or that vehicle. Special rules may apply when the passenger is riding in a vehicle that is being driven by a member of his or her own household, but generally the injured passenger is entitled to be compensated.
Many insurance companies include provisions in their policies that purport to exclude household members and spouses from coverage when they are injured in collisions as passengers in vehicles that are being driven by their spouses or household members. Under Missouri law, however, these types of provisions are considered to be unenforceable up to the statutory liability minimum requirements of the Missouri Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law and under State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Ballmer, 899 S.W.2d 523 (Mo. 1995). In that case, the Supreme Court of Missouri ruled that household exclusion clauses are not enforceable up to the state’s minimum statutory liability requirements. In Missouri, the minimum liability limits are as follows:
- $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability
- $50,000 maximum when more than one person is injured
- $10,000 in property damage
In addition, all policies must provide for Uninsured Motorist coverage in the amounts of $25,000/$50,000. This means that if you are injured in a collision in which your spouse or another family member was driving, you are able to file a claim against his or her insurance policy.
Passenger Rights When Both Drivers Share Fault
In many collisions, both drivers share a degree of the fault. What are the rights of the passenger in a car accident like this? An injured passenger may file claims against both driver’s insurance policies. The fault will be determined according to percentages. For example, if one driver is determined to be 60 percent at fault while the driver of the passenger’s vehicle is determined to be 40 percent at fault, the insurance companies will each pay the percentage allocated to their insured drivers.
Passenger Rights Under His or Her Own Insurance Policy
When you purchase a car insurance policy, one of the optional coverages that you might choose is medical payments coverage or “Med Pay.” It is a good idea for you to opt for this additional coverage because it will pay for your medical bills up to the specified amount if you are injured in a car collision, regardless of who is at fault. Medical payments coverage also follows you from vehicle to vehicle. If you are injured as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle in a car collision, you can file a medical payments claim under both that driver’s policy and under your own policy, even if your own vehicle was not involved in the collision.
Another optional coverage is underinsured motorist coverage. This is an optional coverage which will kick in to protect you when the at-fault party does not have enough insurance coverage to pay all of your damages. Passengers can claim underinsured motorist coverage on both the vehicle policy of the vehicle they were riding in and on their own personal policy, even if that vehicle was not involved.
Medical payments and underinsured motorist coverages do not require you to pay a deductible or copays and using these coverages does not raise your insurance premium rates. Because these coverages are relatively inexpensive, it is highly recommended that you have both medical payments and underinsured motorist coverage on your vehicle policy.
Get Help from an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
It can be difficult to figure out all of the potential insurance coverages, recovery options, and rights you might have when you have been injured in an accident as a passenger. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave are experienced with handling injury claims and understand how to identify all of the insurance coverages that may apply. To learn more about the rights of the passenger in a car accident, call 417-322-2222 or contact us online for a free claim evaluation.