Passenger Injury Claims After a Car Accident

An explanation of your legal options against different drivers involved in the car accident.

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If you have been injured in a car accident as a passenger, there may be a few avenues you can take to get compensation for your medical bills and related losses. In this article, we'll take a close look at those options, plus we'll offer a few tips to keep in mind when you're making an insurance claim as an injured passenger.

Making a Third Party Insurance Claim

Depending on who might have been at fault for the underlying car accident, as a first step, you can usually make a claim against either of the following liability insurance policies:

  • the policy of the driver or owner of the car you were riding in at the time of the accident, or
  • the policy of the driver or owner of another vehicle involved in the accident.

A claim in either of these scenarios would be considered a "third party" claim, since it is one you're making under an insurance policy that is not your own. (Learn more about How Insurance Claims Work.)

It is possible you will need to make multiple claims. For example, if Driver A's liability policy does not provide sufficient coverage for your losses, you may need to pursue a claim under the policy of Driver B for the remainder of your claim (that's assuming that both drivers played a role in causing the accident).

Consider this example: You are injured in a car accident and incur $35,000 in medical bills. The driver/owner of the vehicle you were in only has $10,000 of liability coverage. You are going to be $25,000 short in trying to recover your medical bills under that policy. You could, in this example, also pursue a claim against one of the liability policies for another car involved in the accident for the remaining amount (if there is enough under the other policy to recover the remaining amount).

One thing to remember from the example above is you cannot recover more than your claim is worth. One policy will be allowed to offset whatever amount you recovered from the other policy. In other words, you do not get to “double dip.”

What If the Passenger is Related to the Driver?

If you are related to, and you live with, the driver of the car you were riding in as a passenger, you will probably not be able to pursue a claim against that driver's liability insurance policy. In that situation, you are usually considered an insured under the policy; and insured persons cannot pursue liability claims against the policy that insures them. (Learn more about Negotiating with Your Own Insurer After an Injury.)

Using Medical Payments (“Med Pay”) Coverage

Oftentimes, insurance claims take time to process -- especially when you are making a claim against someone else’s policy. If you have medical bills that need to be paid, and your claim against the other policy is still under review, you can make a claim for medical payments. This type of coverage is often simply referred to as “med pay.” Many people do not even know they have med pay coverage under their automobile insurance policy.

Med pay is not contingent on determining who was at fault for the underlying car accident. This makes processing the claim significantly faster. Keep in mind that if you are claiming pain and suffering, lost wages, or you incurred any other expenses as a result of the accident, med pay will not cover those items. Med pay only covers your medical bills.

An important thing to remember is med pay does not provide infinite coverage for your medical bills. Like any insurance policy, it has its limits; and frankly, those limits are typically pretty low, maybe around $10,000 in a standard policy.

If your med pay coverage is not enough to cover you medical bills, or you are also making claims for the additional items described above, you can still make a claim under the policies of the others involved in the accident (that of the owner/driver of the car you were riding in, or that of the owner/driver of another vehicle involved).

You may also be able to make a claim for med pay coverage under the insurance policy of the driver/owner of the vehicle you were riding in. Again, you are not allowed to “double dip.” The amount you recover is limited to the amount of your claim. If one policy compensates you for any measure of your claim, any other liability policies involved will be entitled to an offset for the amount you already received.

Learn more about Resolving Your Personal Injury Claim.

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