What happens if a car accident injures your passengers? Who pays the hefty medical and hospital bills? The answer may surprise you.
The answer to whether passengers are covered by your insurance is: Probably. But the real question is whose insurance will pay for your passenger(s) injured in the accident? This depends on who’s to blame and whether you live in a tort or no-fault state.
In this article
Let’s start by discussing these two systems of law, and how they determine whether a passenger is covered in an accident.
What to do in tort states
The majority of the U.S. uses a so-called tort system. In these states, law enforcement officers assign fault to the party responsible in an accident. The person deemed to be at fault, or their insurance company, must pay for any medical expenses, property damage, loss of wages and funeral expenses for the other parties.
If you’re a passenger injured in a car accident, you’ll file a personal liability claim against the party who is at fault.
What to do in no-fault states
There are 12 states in the nation that have a no-fault system, including Florida, New York and Michigan. In these states, individuals receive compensation for the accident no matter who’s liable.
In no-fault states, you need to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This will cover your injuries, loss of wages and funeral expenses no matter who is at fault.
And while blame isn’t assigned, the rules are slightly different for a passenger. If they’re injured in an accident, they’re allowed to file a PIP claim against their driver.
What to do as a passenger in a car accident
1. Collect information
It’s important to collect as much information as you can if you’re a passenger in a car accident.
If possible, take photos and/or videos from the scene of the accident. This can help when it comes to filing a claim and determining fault. Make sure you have a copy of a police report for when it’s time to file an insurance claim.
If you have injuries that require you to take time off work and/or receive medical treatment, ensure you are getting a copy of your medical records and tracking any lost wages.
2. Determine fault
If you’re a passenger in a car accident, your first step after assessing injury and property damage is to determine who’s at fault.
You’ll file a third-party insurance claim, which is a claim against the person at fault’s insurance company.
If your driver caused the accident, you’ll file a liability or PIP claim against their policy.
And if it’s the other party’s or parties’ fault, you should file a claim against all drivers who could possibly have caused the accident.
Yet, keep in mind that you can only receive as much compensation as the damage or injury is worth. Also, you must disclose that you’re filing multiple claims to numerous insurers.
3. File a claim
Once you determine who’s at fault, you’ll file an insurance claim.
Filing a passenger injury claim in a tort state is just like filing any other car insurance claim. You will determine who was at fault, get their insurance information and file a claim. If approved, the bodily injury part of their liability coverage should pay for your medical expenses.
You can read our article on what to do if you get in a car accident for more information.
If you live in a no-fault state, you’ll file a claim against your driver’s PIP coverage. This will pay for their passengers’ medical expenses, regardless of fault.
4. File multiple vehicle claims if necessary
If more than one vehicle is ruled to be at fault in an accident, you’ll need to file multiple claims. There are a few different scenarios that demonstrate this phenomenon.
For example, say the vehicle you’re in gets in a multi-car collision. It’s hard to determine fault when there are multiple cars involved. This is a case where an eyewitness such as other passengers or passersby would be very helpful.
If a singular driver caused the accident, you would file a claim against their insurance policy. If multiple people were involved in the accident and agree they’re at fault, you can file a claim against each driver. They would each pay a percentage of the fees for the injuries they caused.
For example, if there were three drivers and they each caused a third of the damage, you would file claims with all their insurance companies to pay 33% of your medical bills.
If it isn’t clear who caused the accident, or no one is taking responsibility, you can bring the issue to court.
Does liability cover passengers?
Whether or not liability insurance covers passengers after a car accident depends on a few things.
Firstly, the insurance laws of your state can determine how much coverage passengers would receive.
In each state, drivers must carry the state-minimum car insurance, but they can add additional protection by increasing limits and adding supplemental coverages. Every state except for New Hampshire and Virginia requires their drivers to carry car insurance.
Another factor that determines if passengers in a car accident are covered by liability coverage is the person at fault.
Medical payments coverage vs. personal injury protection
Legal cases often take a while to resolve. If you’re injured and need treatment as soon as possible, you’ll want to use your health insurance, medical payments coverage or PIP coverage.
You can then get a reimbursement through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Of course, this is if the claim you filed gets approved.
Medical payments coverage covers medical bills of the driver and passengers involved in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Insurers will usually cap medical payments coverage at about $10,000. However, the premiums can be as low as $20 a month, and there are often minimal or no copays or deductibles, unlike most health insurance plans.
PIP is like medical payments coverage, but is only required, and mostly only available, in no-fault states like Florida. It covers medical expenses, lost wages and funeral expenses to the driver and passengers, no matter who’s at fault.
Bottom line: Get coverage
You never know when you’ll be a passenger in an accident, which is why it’s important to carry ample car insurance coverage. You’ll want adequate medical payments coverage or PIP, depending on where you live. Also, look into uninsured motorist (UM) or
underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), because you never know whether the at-fault driver will have adequate coverage.
You can always shop for more coverage, or get a new policy. It's fast and easy. Start by comparing car insurance quotes. We’ll match you with an agent who can help you get the best deal on the coverage you need.
Frequently asked questions
What if the passenger caused the accident?
What if a passenger in your car causes a ruckus and you lose control and crash the car? If this is the case and you can prove negligence on the passenger’s part, you may want to bring the case to court.
However, proving the passenger is liable may be difficult, and you’ll probably want to contact a legal professional before proceeding.
If multiple people caused the accident, whose insurance company do I file a claim against?
As long as each driver at fault admits blame, you can file claims with multiple insurers.
However, be honest with each insurer and let them know you’ll be filing other claims with other insurers.
Also, keep in mind you can only seek as much compensation as there is damage.
What if the driver(s) at fault don’t have insurance?
This happens more often than one would expect, which is why it’s important to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. UM coverage covers your medical expenses if the person at fault in the accident doesn’t have insurance.
UIM is for when the at-fault individual doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the cost of your medical bills. UIM will pay for the remainder.
What happens if the driver(s) at fault don’t have enough coverage?
This is why it’s a good idea to always have UM or UIM coverage. These will cover your medical expenses if the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance, or doesn’t have enough to cover the claim.
What if the driver is your relative?
If the driver is a resident relative, medical payments coverage or PIP will cover you. Resident relatives are your spouse or blood relatives who live in your home.
Any passenger that doesn’t live with the driver doesn’t receive coverage under the driver’s insurance policy.
What if the driver lives in a tort state, gets in an accident in a no-fault state and has passengers in the car?
Your car insurance policy will cover you across state lines. So if your driver gets in an accident in a no-fault state, their personal injury liability protection should still cover you.
Likewise, your no-fault policy such as PIP should cover you in a tort state.
However, these rules only apply if you’re in another state for a short period of time. If you become a resident and move to another state with a different jurisdiction, you’ll need to update your policy. Check with your insurer for further details.
What if multiple passengers are involved?
Each passenger can file a claim against the negligent driver. However, if all their claims demand more monetary compensation than the driver has, they must settle for less.
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