Passenger Suing Friend or Family Member Who is Driving

Photo of women after car accident

If you suffered injuries as a passenger in a car accident, you probably have substantial medical bills, lost wages, and suffered other damages.  While you do not have any liability or responsibility for the accident, your life was negatively impacted by someone’s negligence. If the negligent party was your driver, you may need to pursue a claim against his or her insurance policy for your damages.  The decision to make a claim, or file suit, against your friend or family member is not easy, though it is quite common and often necessary.  How one approaches, the situation can make all the difference in the world.


Liable Parties


As a passenger involved in a car accident, you have no-fault.  You must always attempt to obtain insurance information, as well as the driver’s full name and phone number.  You should also obtain a copy of the full police report. Most attorneys will obtain a copy of the report for you.  Oftentimes the driver is operating the passenger’s car with their permission.  This might mean that you will present a claim against your own insurance company.  In any event, it is important that the driver understand that a claim must be presented to the insurance company in order to obtain compensation for your damages.


What if the At-Fault Driver Has No Insurance?


Even if it appears that the driver did not have enough insurance (or in some cases, no insurance at all), you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate whether that driver might be covered under another insurance policy.  Many times drivers are not aware that they are considered an “insured” under other policies even though the policy is not their own.  For example, if the driver is operating the passenger’s vehicle, and the passenger (who owns the vehicle) is insured, the uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage will extend to the driver.  So long as they had permission to operate the vehicle, they will typically be afforded coverage for the passenger’s damages.  Furthermore, if the passenger has uninsured motorist coverage, it won’t matter whether or not the driver was insured.  The uninsured motorist policy will cover the passenger’s damages.


How to Handle the Awkward Situation Where the Negligent Driver is a Family Member or a Friend


People buy insurance to protect themselves and make sure the people they accidentally injure have a compensation source for their injuries and other damages.  In principle, it would seem that the negligent driver would want you to make a claim against their insurance coverage.  In reality, this can sometimes be awkward.  One must always remember that insurance coverage is there to reimburse someone who was injured and to make them whole again.  At the claim stage, the victim is not suing anyone, but rather, is simply making a claim against the negligent driver’s insurance.  If the claim does not get resolved, the victim may need to file a lawsuit.  Unfortunately, that means that the family member or friend will be named in the lawsuit as a defendant. The victim cannot sue the negligent driver’s insurance company directly in most cases.  In order to obtain the insurance benefits, the victim might have to sue the insured driver in Court, which will then trigger the insurance company’s duty to defend under the insurance policy.  Think of it this way:  Would your friend or family member be angry if a complete stranger made a claim against the policy?  If they caused the accident, likely not; otherwise, they would have to personally pay the stranger for the damage.  That makes no sense given that people buy insurance to protect themselves from having to pay out of pocket if they cause an accident.  When you consider this point, it would make no sense that they would be angry with someone they love and care about being made whole again.


Most cases get resolved prior to ever going to arbitration or trial.  In those select few cases where an arbitration or trial actually happens, most people understand that naming the insured driver in the lawsuit is a legal requirement.  If the person cares about you, and wants you to be compensated for your losses, he or she should have no problem with you making a claim against their policy.


Contact an Experienced Accident Attorney Today


If you were a passenger involved in a motor vehicle accident, and you sustained injuries or other damages, an experienced car accident attorney can help you locate all potential sources of insurance coverage.  You should not attempt to negotiate with insurance companies on your own.  Let an experienced personal injury lawyer help you obtain the settlement you deserve. Contact our experienced car accident attorneys at Wattel & York to help you understand your legal rights.

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