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Injured As A Passenger In A California Car Crash? Here’s What To Do

Most car accident guides talk about how drivers should deal with their injuries, but what if you were a passenger in the collision? Who pays for your injuries? What legal steps can you take? Let’s look at how California’s insurance system works for injured car passengers.

Who Pays For A Passenger’s Accident Injuries?

California is a “fault state” when it comes to auto accident insurance. This means that the person who is at fault in the accident is legally obligated to pay for the injuries they caused on other people. As an injured passenger, you could make a claim with the at-fault person’s insurance company – even if that person was the driver of the vehicle you were in.

You can expect this to be a complicated affair. First, insurance carriers are notorious for their “delay, deny, defend” tactics that make it difficult for you to obtain a fair insurance settlement. You will likely have to pay your bills out-of-pocket first or through your own insurance policy’s injury coverage. Then you may claim reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurer.

In addition, if your own driver was at fault and thus responsible for your medical bills, it can be a delicate decision to pursue a case against this individual that you personally know – perhaps they are your own family or friend.

If the at-fault party is a family member, note that you may be listed as an insured person under their auto insurance policy. This could potentially bar you from making a claim with that policy’s liability coverage (liability coverage is the one that pays for the injuries that the policyholder has caused). However, the insurance likely includes medical coverage for your accident injuries. Hence, you may file a claim for medical coverage instead of liability coverage.

In any case, you should not feel guilty about pursuing injury compensation from someone you know. The treatment and rehabilitation of accident injuries are not an easy thing to face financially. Often, they pile up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is why injured individuals usually need to claim the compensation they are entitled to. Further, you are not actually going after the at-fault party’s personal assets. You are essentially just claiming compensation from their insurance company.

Things To Do If You Are A Passenger In A Crash

To protect your own health and to bolster your compensation claim later on, try to take these important steps right after your accident:

  • Get medical care. Even if your injury feels minor, you should get the attention of a medical professional. Many accident injuries don’t show obvious symptoms right away but later turn out to be costly conditions. Let a doctor assess your injuries thoroughly and provide you with a detailed prognosis.
  • Document the scene. Take photographs of the accident scene, including your injuries, vehicle damage, skid marks, and possible contributing factors (alcohol bottles, speed limit posting signs, hazardous road conditions, an obscured stop sign, and so on.)
  • Collect insurance information. Don’t just rely on the drivers to exchange insurance information between themselves. You, as an involved passenger, may also ask all drivers for their names, contact details, and insurance information. Be cautious when talking to anyone involved. Avoid discussing the accident itself so you don’t say anything that could be used against you later on.
  • Talk to witnesses. Politely ask them about what they saw, and note down their names and contact details. You’ll want to be able to contact neutral witnesses when the time comes to prove who caused the collision.
  • Create a police report. Fill out the police report as honestly and accurately as you can, then obtain a copy of it. This document can be indispensable in establishing how the accident occurred and who was at fault.
  • Do not post anything to social media. Anything you put online will harm your case. Count on it.
  • Get a lawyer. Before you make any statement or sign anything, have an injury attorney on your side to help you avoid costly mistakes. Your lawyer should also be able to investigate the accident, negotiate with insurance adjusters, and effectively fight for your rightful compensation.

Being a passenger in an accident does not mean you have less right to be compensated for your injuries. It is best to consult with a personal injury attorney to understand what you may be entitled to and determine your best steps to obtain it.


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