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Passenger Suing Friend or Family Member Who is Driving

Sep 22, 2020

Photo of a woman after 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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“Amazing people, they had my claim for about a week before they were able to get my truck totaled out. Otherwise I would have been stuck with a truck that had heavy front end damage if they hadn’t stepped in to help me. I tried to deal with my insurance company myself for over a month and that got me nowhere, all I got was a massive headache and a messed up truck. They are very professional and act quickly on your claim. I highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for help.”

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“Wattel & York were flat out outstanding with my personal injury case. They made the process painless and kept in constant communication throughout the entire time. Any questions I might’ve had were promptly answered and detail oriented. They gave me crucial advice that I would’ve otherwise not been aware of. I couldn’t have asked for more from them. Put your trust in these guys, you won’t be disappointed. Thanks Wattel & York.”

Mattew P.


“Thank you so much for all your hard work on our behalf! Thinking I could handle it on my own, I was originally reluctant to take my accident claim to an attorney. But I am SO glad I called you instead. Your people were always helpful, pleasant and responsive at every step along the way. You represented us with honesty and integrity and made a traumatic experience as painless as it could be. And best of all, you helped us get a settlement that was fair and far more than I could ever have negotiated on my own! I highly recommend Wattel &York to anyone who has suffered a personal injury.”

Cathy M.

“I was the passenger in a vehicle that was 'T- Boned' at an intersection in 2014. The issues of responsibility and recovery became a difficult and convoluted confusion. I really needed help. This Team at Wattel and York walked me patiently and encouragingly through difficult months, sorting through issues and finally arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. I especially want to name two great and encouraging "warriors" of Wattel and York who directed me along the way..Brian Torba and Melissa Patterson..to them and the whole team I say "Thank You" with heart felt gratitude. Sincerely, God Bless You.”

Robert G.

“Honesty. Integrity. Transparency. Partnership. Wattel & York brought all of these qualities and more to my accident case. I'd love to thank all of the team members who helped me with the process: David Guzman, who conducted the initial interview in my home, Aly Shomar-Esparza, who seamlessly guided me through paperwork and filings, Debbie Harrach, who conducted final review, paperwork revisions and scheduling, and Thomas Grisoni, who counseled me before and attended my deposition. I never felt alone during the arduous process and always knew there was a professional team looking out for my best interest. I highly recommend Wattel & York if you are unfortunately involved in an accident that was not your fault.”

Russ W.

“I was a passenger in a car that got t-boned a few years ago and got a huge gash. I didn't know a lot about lawyers, so I basically just picked one on the flip of a coin. I called Wattel and York and they explained everything, I went into the office and filled out paperwork. Got treatment on my gash over the time I worked with them, glad I did as it opened back up a couple times and bled. They did really good, got me the maximum amount of money, and made sure I was well taken care of. I was updated from time to time so that was good. The only thing I might change is I never got to thank or talk to my lawyer. I think it was because I was already used to dealing with the lady at their Glendale office so they just kept her as my point of contact. So it's okay, I'll thank them with a good review. The last thing I could say about them is months after I thought my case was over they called me and said they had another check for me for a few hundred dollars. Apparently, they negotiated with the hospital I went to after the accident. It was a nice surprise and shows they really had my interests in mind.”

Trent B.

“Wattel & York has been great for me in the past few years. I was involved in a really bad accident while I was on Active Duty in Yuma, Arizona and they have been patient with me every step of the way through a very long process. I would recommend them to anyone thank you for all your help.”

Levy G.

“Appreciate David taking the time to speak with me. He was most kind. From the front line with the receptionist, to him, the firm was a class act all the way around.”

Claire B.

“Dave Wattel represented me and my son on a Personal Injury case from a motor vehicle accident back in 2009. Jake P. handled my deposition and Dave did the Quarterbacking. The insurance company hired NFL referee Ed Hochuli's firm to try and deny our claim. But Wattel & York made it look as easy as Tom Brady on the football field. The result was more than acceptable and my son and I were compensated for our injuries and rehabilitation. Dave Wattel cares about his clients. If I ever find myself in a situation like this again, Wattel & York will be on speed dial!!”

Vince C.

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