Can I File a Claim if I was Hurt as a Passenger in a Friend's Car?
The minutes and days following a car accident are usually hectic, confusing, and terrifying. You may be left with serious complicated injuries and extensive vehicle repairs, and may not know what steps to take next. When you’re the passenger in a vehicle that’s involved in an accident, it can become even more confusing. While you may not have to worry about property damage, you could still be suffering from injuries that prevent you from working, or even from performing normal daily functions. To add insult to injury, the medical costs of treating those injuries is likely high.
It’s important for passengers to understand that they also have options that can help them deal with their injuries after an accident. The at-fault driver's insurance should cover the cost of those injuries such as the cost of surgery and your hospital stay, physical therapy, and other necessary medical treatment. Recovering these costs won't give folks their health before the accident, but being able to obtain the necessary medical care can help injured passengers recover and get back to their best life as soon as possible.
Even if the at-fault driver is your friend or family-member, their liability insurance policy will still cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses caused by the accident and injuries. You will not be required to file a legal complaint if you retain a professional immediately. We are able to put the work in on the front end to force the hand of the insurance company to either settle reasonably or face a complaint alleging a violation of Kentucky's Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act.
Who was at Fault in My Accident?
First and foremost, it’s important that injured passengers understand they can almost never be found negligent in the event of an accident. Negligence is the legal concept of behaving carelessly or recklessly and causing a vehicle accident that results in injuries. All drivers in Kentucky are expected to drive reasonably safely to avoid injuries to others. When a driver drives recklessly by speeding, tailgating, texting on their phone, driving drunk or under the influence, or otherwise being careless, a jury will likely find they are negligent and responsible for the injuries caused by that negligence. Passengers, on the other hand, can usually not be considered negligent as they have no responsibility other than perhaps to not intentionally cause their driver to wreck.
Some drivers, and more likely their insurance company, may try to shift the blame to the passenger in a vehicle that has been in a bad wreck. They may say that the passenger had the music up too loud, or was distracting the driver by talking too much. This is not an argument that will hold up in court and you should speak to an injury professional immediately if anyone tries to convince you otherwise. Drivers, not passengers, are responsible for operating the vehicle in a safe manner.
To find out whether your driver or the other driver is at fault, get a copy of the collision report prepared by the responding officer. Unless the officer was new, they will almost always list the party they think is at fault as "Unit 1." If you're a passenger, you may still collect the compensation you need for your injuries even if your driver was at fault. If you can't get a copy of the police report then call our office and we will help you get a copy of it without charge.
Like all parties involved in the accident, injured passengers will likely have to speak with the insurance company after an accident to recover accident benefits. Kentucky is a no-fault auto insurance state, and as such, the passenger will need to speak to the insurance company of the driver they were riding with first. The policy should include coverage for property damage to the vehicle and bodily injuries, to both the driver and any passengers they were carrying at the time of the accident.
It may be possible to file a third-party claim with the insurance company of the driver the passenger was traveling with, as well as the insurance company of the other driver involved in the accident. This is sometimes necessary when the injuries sustained in the accident are extremely serious and the limits of one insurance policy will not cover the extent of the damage.
Of course, anytime someone is in an accident with serious injuries they should also look for additional insurance coverage such as Under Insured Motorist coverage that they would have purchased or that may even have been purchased by a family member who lives in their household. How would another insurance policy purchased by a family member cover you when you are hurt very badly? Such policies are almost always written to cover family members living in the same house but you must follow a particular legal procedure to exercise such rights.
Filing a Claim or Filing a Lawsuit
Unfortunately, there are times when injuries after an accident are so great, even multiple insurance policies cannot cover their cost. Or, injuries are so great the passenger would like to hold negligent parties responsible, such as if the driver they were traveling with was their parent who died because of the accident. Even if all insurance companies responsible pay their policy limits, passengers may still wish to file a civil lawsuit for their losses to hold the at-fault party accountable. At the Morrin Law Office, we work hard to help folks avoid filing a lawsuit whenever possible.
There is a lot of misinformation online about when a Statute of Limitation runs after a car accident. It's important to understand this because once the Statute of Limitation runs then the claim is lost forever regardless of how serious or well-founded the claim is unless a lawsuit has been filed, preserving the claim. In Kentucky, after a car accident an injured person who has been hurt has 2 years from the date of the accident to either settle their claim informally with the at-fault driver's insurance company. However, if "Basic Reparation Benefit" AKA "Personal Injury Protection" (PIP) payments are made then that extends the running of the Statute of Limitations to the date of the last payment. An important exception to this rule is when someone is killed by a car accident then that person's estate or family usually has only 1 year from the death to file the complaint and preserve the claim.
For these reasons, and because the Statute of Limitations for a given car crash is not straight forward, it's very important to speak with an injury professional who handles injury claims every day immediately after a serious accident.
The Importance of Speaking with a Kentucky Car Accident Lawyer
Passengers injured while riding in a vehicle involved in an accident do have rights. However, it’s often difficult for them to ensure their rights are upheld. A Kentucky personal injury lawyer is someone who can provide the necessary help and guidance through the complicated insurance process, speak to insurance companies on your behalf, and take care of keeping an eye on the statute of limitations and the filing process.
If you have been injured, call the Morrin Law Office at (859) 358-0300. There may be compensation available to help with the cost of your injuries, and we can help you get it. Now is the time to focus on your own recovery and get back to your best life as soon as possible. Let us take care of the logistics to your recovery.