Logic parallels facts when the facts tell us that passenger vehicles (e.g., cars, minivans, and SUVs) comprise the largest portion of motor vehicle accidents each year and result in the highest rates of fatalities due to vehicle accidents. In 2015, according to the recently published crash statistics report by National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, for passenger cars, there were a total of 12,628 occupants killed, of that number, 9,241 were the drivers while 3,357 were passengers (another “unknown” amount was 30). The total occupants injured in the passenger car accidents were 1,378,000, with 1,004,000 accounting for injured drivers and another 373,000 accounting for injured passengers (another 1,000 was “unknown”).
As clearly demonstrated, the driver is not the only one at risk when on the road, but the driver’s passengers, who may be family, friends, clients, or other, are just as much at risk. When car accidents happen, and passengers get injured (or die), who pays? The answer depends on circumstances unique to the accident, but in this article we try to summarize the basics so that if you were a passenger in a vehicular accident, you can have an idea of what to anticipate.
Passenger’s Personal Injury Claim in Missouri
Passengers need not worry about property damage or liability to another injured person, but they do need to know how to claim their own personal injury damages. You will need to file a demand letter that shows you suffered injuries, the injuries stem directly from the car accident, and the car accident was caused by such-and-such person(s). Missouri follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence, which means all parties recover, but their damages are reduced according to the amount they are at fault for the accident. Passengers are not at fault, so it would seem that you would be rewarded full compensation. Generally, the passenger would file a claim with the insurance company associated with the driver of the vehicle the passenger is in, or if the passenger is of age to drive and has her own auto insurance, she could possibly file a claim with it, depending on the coverage she has. These would be the quickest and easiest way to be awarded compensation for damages. Problems, however, can arise. There are 3 specific issues to consider.
- Relationship with Driver. Are you related to the at fault driver who was driving the car you were a passenger in? If so, then special rules apply. You are deemed, by virtue of your relationship with the at fault driver, covered as though you were the driver, and in this case means the at fault driver. Chances are the driver cannot file a liability claim against her own liability coverage, and it follows, since you are legally attached to the driver, that you cannot file a liability claims against the driver’s liability coverage either because you are also recognized as an insured under the driver’s policy.
- Joint Liability. At issue is liability, as it is for almost any personal injury claim. Even though you do not have to worry about someone filing a claim against you (unless of a rare occurrence and you, as the passenger, struck the driver of your vehicle while the car was in motion, thus, causing the crash), you do need to worry about the percentage of fault for the other parties, including the driver of the vehicle you were in. You need to know who is liable so that you can file your third-party insurance claim(s) appropriately.
Therefore, if one driver is easily deemed 100 percent at fault, then you don’t have to worry about who will pay what percentage. If the drivers and their respective insurance companies, however, dispute and bicker over liability, then your damage recovery will be in waiting. That said, you will recover, but you will have to file a claim with both drivers’ insurances.
- Proof of Damages. You still must prove your damages and support the amount of compensation you are requesting. If you are filing a third-party claim with one or both drivers’ insurance companies, then you can recover both economic and non-economic damages. If, however, you are filing a claim with your own insurance company, then you will likely only receive reimbursement for medical bills through a medical payment program associated with your insurance.
Overall, if you are a passenger and you were injured in a car accident, you can assume at worst you will recover the expense of medical bills, and at most, though it may take some time, you could recover full compensation, including any pain and suffering that stemmed from the accident.
The Necessity of Legal Representation
If you have been injured in an auto accident while a passenger of a vehicle in Kansas City, Missouri, you have rights to recover compensation; you are not helpless, though you may feel like it. If you want to recover the full amount of compensation, then hiring an experienced car accident attorney is the first step in that direction. Of course, all cases vary, and compensation will be dependent on the facts and evidence gathered to support the claim(s). An experienced attorney will know how to proceed with a thorough investigation so that the claim process can begin on the right foot. To learn your rights and what kind of claim(s) you may be able to file, contact an attorney today.
Contact Krause & Kinsman Today
If you’ve been in injured as a passenger of a vehicle in Kansas City, Missouri, you need legal assistance. Determining liability and coverage in these kinds of cases can be complicated and may require extensive investigations. At Krause & Kinsman, our dedicated personal injury legal team in Kansas City knows how to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding your accident. We know how to identify all responsible parties. We act aggressively so that you will receive the compensation you rightfully deserve according to Missouri law.
Robert Kinsman is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Robert Kinsman is passionate about normalizing the life of his clients after they have been seriously injured. Learn more about his experience here.