When you're injured in a car accident as a passenger, it can be truly horrifying because you're just holding on for dear life. You aren't in control, and that makes it even harder than if you were behind the wheel. It's truly the worst-case scenario.
So, what if you're injured in a car accident as a passenger and have tons of medical bills, lost wages, and other damages? Can you sue the driver of the vehicle you were riding in? Can you sue the driver of the other vehicle or vehicles in the accident? What insurance comes into play, if any?
These are all questions our clients have after getting injured in a car accident as a passenger. The accident itself is scary, but sometimes the financial consequences are even more terrifying because medical bills can ruin a person financially, and nobody prepares to get hurt in a car accident.
In this article, we'll talk about what your rights are if you're injured in a car accident as a passenger. We'll talk about the insurance that might come into play, and we'll talk about what's involved in pursuing a personal injury claim after an Orlando motor vehicle accident. Although we're in Orlando, Florida, we handle cases all over Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, and other than some details, like the statute of limitations, most of the information in this article will be relevant, regardless of where you got injured.
So, if you feel like you need the help of an attorney, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. You can contact us on our website or give us a call at (321) 352-7588 for a free legal consultation.
Overview of Passenger Car Accident Claims
Riding in a car as a passenger may appear to be the safer choice, however, when an accident happens, people often find themselves facing intricate legal matters. Even though you're not the driver, you still have the right to seek financial compensation if you suffered serious injuries in a car accident.
If you're injured while riding shotgun or sitting backseat in Florida, it's crucial to understand how Florida law applies to your situation and what steps are necessary for filing a personal injury claim.
What Constitutes A Viable Passenger Accident Claim?
If you're injured in a car accident as a passenger, you may need to file a personal injury claim or a personal injury lawsuit to recoup all the money you've lost as a result of another person's negligent or reckless driving. A personal injury claim is a civil remedy for injured people to get compensation for their losses or damages caused by negligent, reckless, or intentional acts. The purpose of a personal injury claim or personal injury lawsuit is to make injured people whole again.
In this context, if another driver was reckless or negligent and caused an accident, and then you were injured in a car accident as a passenger, they may be held liable for your damages through a personal injury lawsuit. In Florida, you would need to show that the other driver was negligent, and then you would have a basis for seeking compensation after getting injured in a car accident as a passenger.
To successfully establish negligence in Florida, the plaintiff or person claiming damages must prove four key elements:
- The defendant (the person being sued) had a duty of care towards the plaintiff (you).
- The defendant breached that duty by acting negligently or recklessly.
- This breach directly resulted in harm or caused damage to you – physical injuries in this case.
- You incurred actual damages – medical bills, lost wages etc., due to your injuries.
To summarize, the 4 key elements are negligence are (1) Duty; (2) Breach; (3) Causation; and (4) Damages. These are the critical elements of any personal injury claim, whether you're injured in a car accident as a driver or if you're injured in a car accident as a passenger.
Navigating Liability As a Passenger in an Orlando Car Accident Can Be Tricky
Sometimes, liability is clear after an Orlando car accident. For example, sometimes there are witnesses who saw the at-fault driver going twice the speed limit in the moments before the crash. Other times, the at-fault driver gets busted for DUI. In cases where negligence is clear, you'll have an easier time getting just compensation after getting injured in a car accident as a passenger because liability is clear.
However, in some cases, figuring out who is at fault isn’t always clear cut; sometimes both drivers involved share responsibility for causing the crash. Other times external factors such as road conditions could have contributed to making matters even more complicated. Additionally, there's always the chance that the drivers will contradict each other's story about what happened, and then you're stuck in a he-said, she-said if you don't have additional evidence.
Most of the time, proving damage liability isn't easy and straightforward after an accident occurs, but don't worry. This complexity does not deter us, and there are always arguments to be made for a passenger injured in a car accident. There are creative ways to obtain useful evidence, like dash cam footage, cell phone records, and nearby camera footage. We're here to help guide you through this maze and help you present the strongest case possible.
In Florida’s comparative negligence system, the portion of each driver's fault matters significantly when determining compensation between the two drivers. However, this is usually not as big a factor for the passenger because the passenger doesn't control either vehicle. It's still significant, however, because multiple drivers may be liable for the passenger's damages, including the driver of the vehicle the passenger was in, and one of the drivers (or both) may have good insurance, or one or both drivers may have bad insurance coverage.
For example, let's say Passenger Pat is riding in a vehicle with Driver Dave. Dave has $10,000 in bodily injury coverage. Driver Dave was high and texting on the phone at the time of the accident. Driver Dan has $25,000 in bodily injury coverage. While speeding and drunk, Driver Dan crashes into Driver Dave on the passenger side. Passenger Pat suffers a broken arm and needs a $50,000 surgery as a result.
Now, let's say Dave is found to be 50% at fault for smoking weed and texting, and Dan is found to be 50% at fault for speeding and driving drunk. Pat's medical bills alone are $50,000, and Dave doesn't have the insurance to cover it. As you can see, the comparative fault could be a significant issue in a passenger car accident case because one of the drivers may not have enough insurance coverage to pay for their share of the damages.
Who Can a Person Sue After Getting Injured in a Car Accident as a Passenger?
If you're injured in a car accident as a passenger on Florida roads, you need to know who can be held accountable for your injuries. Typically, the party accountable for causing the crash--the at-fault driver--is legally responsible. But figuring out who that might be can get complicated, and more than one driver may ultimately be liable.
In Florida, if you're injured in a car accident as a passenger, there are several parties from whom you may seek compensation. The driver of the vehicle you were riding in could potentially bear some responsibility. For instance, if they ran a red light or were speeding and this led to an accident, they would likely share the blame.
But what happens when another driver causes the crash? If someone else hits your ride while running through traffic signals or texting behind their wheel, they too could be held liable for negligence in a personal injury lawsuit. Accordingly, multiple drivers may need to pay up for damages like medical bills and lost wages due to their negligence.
Determining Fault After a Car Accident in Orlando
The question of who was at fault for a car accident is crucial because it directly impacts whom an injured passenger can sue after getting involved in a motor vehicle collision. More specifically, whether a driver is negligent or not can determine whether the injured passenger can seek compensation from the driver's insurance company after a motor vehicle accident. This determination typically depends on evidence gathered at the scene, like police reports, witness statements, video footage etc., which can help establish liability accurately.
Note that police reports are often wrong. The officer shows up at the scene and often only has vehicle damage and the drivers' stories to work with. Accordingly, evidence gathered after the accident can sometimes help to establish a different story than the police report tells. Nonetheless, it's always a good idea to obtain a police report after an auto accident.
Back to fault. A critical point here is that even when both drivers share blame; say one failed to yield right-of-way while the other was speeding, both could be held liable. Florida's comparative negligence rule lets you sue multiple parties based on their percentage of fault, and this is not unlike other states, like Georgia and South Carolina.
In some cases, an external factor like a defect in the vehicle or poor road conditions might also contribute to the accident. This is rare, and usually a driver is to blame. However, if proven true, other entities such as car manufacturers or government bodies responsible for maintaining roads may also face consequences in a personal injury lawsuit.
Damages Available to Passengers in Orlando Auto Accidents
Passengers who are injured in Orlando auto accidents may suffer financially, but they can seek compensation for their losses under Florida law. You might have medical bills piling up, lost wages from missed work, and other expenses that add stress to your recovery process. Fortunately, Florida law permits passengers injured in car accidents to seek reimbursement for their losses, and usually this compensation comes from an at-fault driver's bodily injury policy or from their own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
The first category of damages we'll talk about is economic damages. These are the easily quantifiable, tangible, objective, out-of-pocket costs related directly to your injury. These are damages that can be easily added up, and they often include the following:
- Medical Expenses: These cover any healthcare costs linked with treating injuries from your accident - doctor visits, hospital stays, and medications.
- Rehabilitation Expenses: These cover your healthcare costs associated with more long-term recovery, like chiropractic visits and physical therapy.
- Past and Future Lost Wages: If you couldn't work because of your injuries after an Orlando motor vehicle accident; this component reimburses those earnings.
- Loss of Future Earning Capacity: Sometimes, severe injuries will affect future income potential due loss of earning capacity or disability caused by the incident. If a negligent person injures you and your injuries will prevent you from advancing in your career, that's an example of loss of earning capacity.
Non-economic damages are the intangible costs associated with an injury, and these damages are much more subjective and difficult to quantify. These damages reflect personal hardships experienced following an auto collision. Non-economic damages include things like:
- Pain and Suffering: Physical pain, emotional distress, anxiety or trauma experienced due to the accident can be considered under this category.
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life: If your injuries prevent you from enjoying activities or hobbies that you loved before the accident, compensation for such loss is valid in Florida.
- Loss of Consortium: This is a type of damage available to a spouse or domestic partner for loss of support and services.
- Loss of Filial Consortium: This is a type of damage available to the parents of an injured minor child. Parents suffer when their child is injured.
- Loss of Parental Consortium: This is a type of damage available to a minor child where the minor child's parent is injured.
Does Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Protect Passengers in Florida?
Under the Florida "no-fault" system, a unique form of car insurance coverage comes into play - Personal Injury Protection, or PIP for short. This special policy can come into play when you're injured as a passenger in an auto accident.
Florida's No-Fault Insurance System and PIP Coverage
The essence of Florida’s no-fault insurance system lies within its name – it doesn’t matter who caused the crash; your own insurance pays out first. So, if you've been hurt while riding shotgun, your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage should kick in right away to cover some of your medical bills and lost wages.
If you're not the owner of a vehicle, what happens to your coverage under Florida's no-fault insurance system? Fear not. You’re still protected under the driver's PIP policy. That means even without owning wheels yourself, this unique feature lets passengers get help after accidents too.
The Limitations of PIP in Florida Passenger Accident Claims
Although PIP might sound great, there is rarely enough PIP coverage to make a dent in the medical bills when a person is seriously injured. The typical cap on benefits sits at $10,000 per person for emergency medical conditions resulting from the accident. This $10,000 can be used up very quickly in a case where a passenger is seriously injured and needs extensive medical treatment.
Another problem with PIP is that it doesn't cover your pain and suffering. It typically just covers a person's medical bills and lost wages. Thus, PIP often doesn't come close to adequately compensating a person after a car accident.
When Your Costs Exceed the Cap
If your medical bills or lost wages exceed the cap on your PIP coverage, things get a bit more complicated. That's when you may need to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance or even sue for damages. These steps could help you recover additional costs not covered under the relevant personal injury protection policies.
Comparative Negligence in Florida Car Accident Cases
If you've been injured in a car accident as a passenger, the inquiry of fault is essential. This is not only true in Orlando motor vehicle accidents, but it's true in any Florida auto accident and any auto accident in any state. Who is at fault will determine which insurance policy will pay for a victim's damages, and multiple people may share blame for an auto accident.
In Florida, we use a system called modified comparative negligence. States like Georgia and South Carolina also follow the modified comparative negligence rule. This doctrine can have substantial effects on your compensation.
Determining Fault and Its Impact on Compensation After Getting Injured in a Car Accident as a Passenger
Figuring out who's to blame after a motor vehicle accident is a critical first move in any personal injury case. Sometimes it’s clear-cut; other times, it's more difficult to lay blame on another driver. If you're injured in a car accident as a passenger, the driver of the car you were riding in may share some of the blame with the other vehicle involved. Often times, both drivers are responsible for a passenger's injuries to some degree.
Under Florida law though, even if you're partially at fault for causing your own injuries (say by not wearing a seatbelt), this doesn't bar recovery. Instead, any damages awarded may be reduced proportionately based on your percentage of responsibility. In the same way, proportional fault may be assigned to any negligent drivers involved in the motor vehicle accident.
Navigating Comparative Negligence in Florida Personal Injury Lawsuits
This legal concept can get tricky when filing lawsuits against multiple parties because each party’s level of negligence must be determined separately. That's where experienced lawyers come into play and help you get the most compensation possible, considering your damages, the culpability of the drivers, and the insurance coverage available.
For example, there are often cases where one driver was 70% at fault while another was 30%. So imagine trying to collect from two insurance companies while they argue over percentages. We help navigate these murky waters and make sure our clients receive their rightful compensations despite complex calculations and disputes between insurers.
Passenger Personal Injury Claims Against Multiple Parties
In accidents involving multiple parties where the victim is injured in a car accident as a passenger, comparative negligence often leads to more complex lawsuits. It's not uncommon for a passenger to bring legal action against both the driver of their vehicle and any other party involved.
Here’s where it gets interesting: Each claim is considered separately when determining damages. So even if you win your case against one driver but lose against another, you can still get compensation from the winning suit. The takeaway? Don't let this deter you - it's just part of the process in multi-party cases. The insurance companies balance risk versus reward when trying to determine how much to pay on a claim, and thus there are often many opportunities to negotiate a settlement prior to taking a case all the way to court.
The Process of Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit After an Orlando Motor Vehicle Accident
After suffering injuries as a passenger in an auto accident, you may be wondering about the legal process ahead. Overall, the process is fairly straightforward, although certain parts of the process can be more tricky from case to case. Generally speaking, every case involves the same steps.
Your journey to justice starts with gathering evidence, and this can start at the scene of the accident in the immediate aftermath. Gathering evidence might include getting photos and videos of the accident scene, obtaining medical reports detailing your injuries, and getting witness statements from anyone who saw the accident.
We may also seek to obtain camera footage from nearby businesses that may have captured the accident, or we may be able to get dashcam footage from nearby drivers. Also, there may be black box data in one or all of the vehicles involved in the Orlando car accident that can provide valuable data regarding the vehicle's movements and the driver's actions immediately before and during the motor vehicle accident. All these pieces form the backbone of your case.
Remember that while police reports are helpful, they're not always accurate or complete. Therefore, doing some detective work on your own can prove very beneficial for your claim.
Initiating a Personal Injury Claim
In every personal injury case, we like to send out an initial packet of documents that lets the defendants know that we are representing the injured person. This is a way to kick off personal injury insurance claims, and this lets the defendant know that they need to contact us directly and not bother our client. Additionally, it lets them know that a personal injury lawsuit is a very real possibility, and so they need to be cooperative.
Another document we send is an insurance request. Under Florida Statute 627, we're entitled to any applicable insurance information. Thus, we request that information at the beginning of every case so that we know how much coverage is potentially available.
Another document we send out is a letter of preservation, sometimes called a "spoliation letter." This lets the defendant know that there is a personal injury claim, and thus they cannot destroy or misplace relevant evidence. If they do, we can use that against them and essentially, we can potentially get an inference that the evidence they "lost" or destroyed would have worked in our favor.
This stage is often where we see settlements occur before ever stepping foot inside a courtroom - but not always. In pre-suit negotiations, both parties discuss their terms in hopes of reaching an agreement without going to trial. We send over the medical bills, police report, or any other relevant documents, and we demand payment from the insurance company.
After that, the vehicle insurance company reviews our demand for payment and then determines how much they're willing to pay on the claim, and negotiations ensue. If no agreement is reached during this phase, we move forward with filing suit formally in court which kickstarts the discovery process.
The Discovery Process
In Florida's personal injury law system, the discovery process serves as a way for each party involved to exchange information regarding all aspects related directly or indirectly towards their case. This is when depositions are taken, and this is when there are interrogatories and requests for documents. Basically, each side gets to ask for information and documents, and the other side can either object or provide the information requested. If there are objections, the matter may go before a judge, and the judge can decide whether the information must be provided.
Be ready to share and receive a lot of information during this phase, as it forms the foundation for your court case. Also, be ready to give over a bunch of information that you don't consider relevant. The reality is that the other side is entitled to a lot of different types of information, and it may not make sense to you. Nonetheless, it often must be provided, and that's one of the frustrating issues you face when a case moves from pre-suit negotiations to litigation.
If both parties still haven't reached an agreement after discovery, they can go to mediation, where a neutral third party tries to help the parties find common ground and come to an agreement. If an agreement is reached at mediation, the parties can sign a settlement agreement, and the whole thing can end there. However, if the parties fail to reach an agreement at mediation, often called "impasse," the case proceeds to trial.
FAQs Related to Getting Injured in a Car Accident as a Passenger
Q1: What coverage would pay for the injuries to the passenger?
A1: The negligent driver's Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or bodily injury liability insurance usually pays for a passenger's injuries. You can work with your Orlando car accident lawyer to be sure you identify all potential defendants and insurance policies available. That way, you can get the maximum compensation you're entitled to under the law.
Q2: What happens to the head of a passenger when hit from behind in a car accident?
A2: If hit from behind, passengers may experience whiplash, causing their heads to jerk forward and back suddenly, possibly leading to a serious neck injury. Your injury lawyer can help you to establish your injuries to the auto insurance company so that you can get fair compensation for any and all injuries you've suffered.
Q3: What are my rights as a passenger in a car accident in Florida?
A3: As an injured passenger, you have the right to pursue compensation for your personal injuries after a car accident in Florida. You have the right to receive compensation for your injuries from the driver responsible or their insurance company, regardless of who the driver was. You also have the right to seek payment for your medical bills from any pip insurance coverage available.
Q4: What happens if you are a passenger in a car accident in Florida?
A4: If you are a passenger involved in a car accident in Florida, it's essential to know that you can file a claim for compensation. You have the right to seek damages for your injuries from the at-fault driver's insurance company, regardless of whether the driver was the vehicle's owner or not. An Orlando car accident lawyer at our office can guide you through the legal process, helping to ensure that you receive the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.
Q5: Are Passengers Entitled to Compensation After a Car Accident?
A5: Yes, passengers are indeed entitled to compensation after a car accident. They have the right to file a claim against the at-fault party's insurance company, seeking damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Consulting with an experienced Orlando car accident attorney can significantly aid in navigating the legal complexities and ensuring the most favorable outcome.
Q6: Are Passengers Covered by Car Insurance in Florida?
A6: Yes, passengers are typically covered by car insurance in Florida. If injured in an accident, passengers can file a claim under the driver's Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage, which is mandatory in Florida. However, the specifics of coverage may vary depending on the insurance policy, and it's advisable to seek advice from an Orlando car accident lawyer to understand your rights and options.