If you are driving and are involved in a car accident, you likely know what to do. First, call the police, then your insurance agent, and ensure that you have the insurance information of other individuals involved. But what if you are a passenger, not a driver, of a vehicle in a crash? The repercussions of car accidents for passengers are often overlooked, but the injuries suffered and damages incurred are very real, and should be compensated. In an accident, passengers have the same rights to compensation as drivers, along with some of the same responsibilities.
What are My Rights and Responsibilities as a Passenger in a Car Accident?
Unlike drivers, passengers have a small list of responsibilities when on the road. While some drivers may ask their passengers to help navigate or control the music, the most important passenger responsibilities are to avoid being a distraction and to leave the driving, including control of the wheel, gear shift, and pedals, to the person behind the wheel. In addition to being good common sense, minding these responsibilities will also prevent you, as the passenger, from being assigned any fault in an accident. This is important, since North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, meaning that you will not be able to collect any compensation if you are found to be partially at fault for the accident. If an insurance adjuster or jury finds you to be even 1% at fault, you will not be able to collect any compensation.
There is one striking similarity between driver and passenger responsibilities: In both roles, you are responsible for your own choices leading up to the accident. If, for example, you are aware that the driver has been drinking and choose to ride in the car anyway, you could be determined to be partially at fault, eliminating your ability to collect compensation.
Many passengers injured in car accidents do not realize that they can pursue compensation for their injuries and expenses stemming from the accident through a personal injury claim. As a passenger, you are eligible for damages such as:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Repair or replacement of damaged property
- Pain and suffering
Your personal injury claim can be filed against any driver determined to be at fault. This may mean that your suit will name both the driver of the vehicle you were riding in and the other drivers involved in the accident, with the intent of obtaining compensation from their insurance companies. In rare cases, you may have a case against the vehicle’s manufacturer, body shop, or other party responsible for causing the accident.
If the amount of your expenses exceeds what the insurance companies of the at-fault parties will cover, your own vehicle insurance may cover some of your costs under your Underinsured Motorist coverage. Do not wait to contact your attorney, who can help you with insurance negotiations even before filing a personal injury claim. In most cases, you have only three years from the date of your injury to file your claim, so it is important to contact your attorney right away to allow time for the necessary research, negotiations, and other pre-trial processes.
Can a Local Attorney Help if I Was in a Car Accident as a Passenger?
Although it is unlikely that you can be blamed for the accident, you will still need to prove that your injuries and other expenses were directly caused by the accident and that you did not contribute to your own injuries in any way. If, for example, you were blaring loud music or reaching toward the driver at the time of the accident, the defense may choose to argue that your injuries were caused or at least made worse by your own actions, rendering them free of responsibility for those expenses. However, North Carolina law places the burden of proof on the defense, so careful preparation can make this defense impossible. In order to help your attorney prove that your damages are connected to the accident, you should be prepared to provide:
- Your detailed account of the accident
- Photographs of the accident scene and your injuries, if possible
- Medical records
- A copy of the police report
- Names and contact information of any witnesses
- Names and insurance information for involved drivers
Your attorney can assist you in obtaining any information you do not have readily available, but any information you can gather in advance will help to get your case started quickly.
Contact an Attorney to Learn More About Passenger’s Rights in North Carolina
If you have been injured as a passenger in a car accident, contact the experienced attorneys at the Law Office of D. Hardison Wood immediately. We will work to help you build a case to obtain the compensation you need to cover your expenses.