It's nice to have someone else drive around, but in doing so, you are also putting yourself at some risk. If you are injured as a passenger in a car crash, you will need to rely on the drivers of the involved vehicles — and their insurance companies — to pay for your medical costs. Here is a closer look at what happens and what you need to do in this situation.
1. Make sure the police are contacted.
If both of the drivers are okay and their vehicles are not overly damaged, the drivers may be tempted to just settle the accident costs between themselves, rather than calling the police. As a passenger in this accident, however, you should never let this happen. If there is no police report filed in relation to the accident, you will have a very difficult time getting your costs covered. Encourage the drivers to call the police after the accident — and if they refuse, call the police yourself.
Call the police and have a report generated even if you think your injuries are minor and don't require medical treatment. Many injuries initially appear minor but worsen in the days following a crash. You need to see a doctor to accurately determine how injured you are.
2. Make sure your full costs are covered by one of the drivers' insurance companies.
You might have to wait a few days for the drivers' insurance companies to negotiate with one another and decide who will cover your costs. This will depend, in most cases, on which driver is at fault for the accident. If the person you were riding with is found to be at fault for the crash, their insurer should pay. If the other driver is at fault, their insurance company should pay.
When either insurance company offers you an amount of money as compensation, check to be absolutely sure it covers all of your costs. If you are still getting medical treatment or think you might need additional medical treatment in the future, do not accept their offer without first running it by a lawyer. An insurance company will often make a low-ball offer for compensation the first time, in hopes that you will accept it. But if you accept this offer and find that your expenses are actually higher, you'll be out of luck.
3. Talk to a lawyer.
If you only have minor injuries, one insurance company will probably make you an offer that covers the costs; you'll accept it, and you'll then move on. In more serious accidents, however, you should contact an auto accident attorney. They can sue both drivers' insurance companies to ensure they pay you the full amount you deserve.
Which insurance company will pay you? That, again, depends on fault. In some cases, your lawyer may request 25% compensation from one company and 75% of compensation from the other company if fault was shared between the two drivers.
Once a lawyer takes over your case, you should cease any personal communication with the auto insurance companies. Leave your lawyer to analyze, accept, or deny any offers the insurance company makes. Most insurance companies will settle your claim without you having to go to court, although it may take them a few months to fully reimburse you.
When you are the passenger in an accident, determining who will pay for your costs and how much they'll pay can be a struggle. But rest assured — you are in no way at fault for the injuries yourself, and you should not be the one to pay. Contact a lawyer for more information.