A passenger in a car accident is usually covered by the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability insurance and PIP. Depending on the circumstances, passengers in a car accident can file a claim with their driver’s insurance company, the other driver’s insurance provider, or their own personal insurer. No matter what, it’s important that passengers take the right steps to make sure they’re prepared to file an insurance claim after an accident.
What to Do If You Are a Passenger in a Car Accident
- Collect insurance information from the drivers involved.
- Take pictures of the accident scene.
- Get a copy of the police report.
- Keep a record of all medical treatment that you receive as a result of the accident.
- Document any lost wages or other financial damages.
- File a claim with your driver’s insurance company, the at-fault driver’s insurer or your personal insurer.
- If the insurance company is resisting paying damages, you can hire an attorney and file a lawsuit.
Insurance That Covers Passengers in a Car Accident
In every state, drivers are required to carry liability car insurance to cover any harm to third parties when they are at fault – or “liable” – for the damage. But sometimes another form of car insurance will provide “primary” coverage no matter who is at fault for the accident.
How your injuries will be covered depends on state laws, who was at fault, and what type of insurance the various drivers carry. The table below lists all the forms of insurance that may apply when an auto passenger is injured.
|Insurance Policy||When Does It Apply||Important Considerations|
|Personal Injury Protection (PIP)||Your driver’s policy, regardless of fault||May have deductibles|
|Medical Payments (MedPay)||Your driver’s policy, regardless of fault|
Your own Medpay insurance covers you even when you are a passenger
|Can pay other policies’ deductibles|
|Bodily Injury Liability||The other driver’s policy when that driver is at fault|
Your driver’s policy when that driver is at fault
|Your own driver’s liability coverage applies only if you are not a member of the same household|
|Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM)||Your driver’s policy when the other driver is at fault but doesn’t have sufficient coverage.||Has pre-set coverage limits similar to liability insurance|
|Your own health insurance||Pays up front for your treatment||May have deductibles and copays|
If your injuries are covered by more than one policy, the rules about which insurance pays first can be complicated, and they vary from state to state. So it’s a good idea to contact the auto insurance companies for any driver involved in the accident and notify them you have been injured in an accident involving their customer. Let each insurer know about the other insurance companies you are contacting, because if more than one insurer will be paying part of your costs, it will ultimately be sorted out by the insurance companies in a process called subrogation.
Filing a Claim With Your Driver’s Insurance
If the driver of your vehicle carries PIP or MedPay, you can file a claim with their insurance to get compensation for your injuries. This is usually a pretty straightforward route to take, since PIP and MedPay will pay for your medical costs regardless of who is at fault.
However, not all states require drivers to carry PIP or MedPay. So if your driver doesn’t have either, you can file a bodily injury claim with their insurance instead. However, keep in mind that this only applies when your driver is at fault and you are not a member of the same household.
Filing a Claim With the Other Driver’s Insurance
If the other driver is at fault, then their bodily injury liability insurance will pay for your medical expenses. However, there are a few problems that can arise in the process.
Liability insurance policies generally have a payment limit, which means that the insurance company won’t pay for anything beyond the maximum dollar amount. If your medical costs exceed that amount, you’ll have to find another way to cover the difference. And if you weren’t the only person injured, you’ll have to split the payment and further reduce your compensation.
The process could also be tricky if fault isn’t apparent. Liability insurance will only pay out if the other driver is at fault, which could take months to determine in some accidents. In that case, you could be left waiting a long time for a settlement.
Filing a Claim With Your Own Insurance
If you have PIP or MedPay included in your own insurance policy, then you can use them to pay for your medical expenses. In some cases, this will be the quickest and easiest way to receive payment. However, you might see your rates go up as a result.
You could also use your personal health insurance to cover your costs if you’re waiting for a settlement from someone else’s car insurance company. In that case, you’ll likely have to reimburse your health insurance once the settlement has been finalized.
4 Tips for Making Sure You’re Covered in an Accident
Get insurance information as soon as you can
If your injuries are severe, you can worry about gathering information later. But if you are able to, get names, phone numbers, and insurance information from each of the drivers at the scene of the accident, and ask the police officer for the accident report number. These will be useful to you later when you file a claim.
Take charge of your own safety when riding in a car
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that seatbelts saved nearly 15,000 lives in 2017, which is the most recent year that data is available. Also, be aware that passengers can be found to be at least partially responsible in an accident. Anything from distracting the driver or not wearing your seatbelt to grabbing the wheel can make you responsible, and “at-fault,” for accidental harm.
Make sure to carry adequate insurance of your own
If you don’t drive, you don’t necessarily need to depend on other people’s insurance to keep you safe. Getting your own health insurance will protect you any time you need medical care, and under the Affordable Care Act, there are many new options for insurance, including low-cost coverage for people with modest incomes. You can learn more at healthcare.gov. If you do have your own auto policy, look into adding PIP or MedPay coverage, which will protect you even when you’re in someone else’s car.
Know when to hire an attorney
In a technical sense, when you file a claim with the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy, you are threatening them with a lawsuit. That person caused your injuries, and he or she is responsible to compensate you for your harm. Under normal circumstances the driver’s insurance company will compensate you for your injuries. However there are circumstances where either the insurance company will resist paying for your damages, or where there isn’t a clear policy that covers your damages.
Under these circumstances you may need a personal injury attorney to help receive compensation for your injuries. Remember that if you are injured due to someone else’s negligence, the law is on your side, and personal injury attorneys won’t charge you a fee until they recover the damages. Get medical help immediately and talk to an attorney as soon as possible.