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Can I Make a Claim as a Passenger if I’m Injured in a Car Accident?

October 28, 2020

Car accidents can result in serious hardships, from lost wages and hospitalization to property damage and vehicle repairs. Under Colorado law, injured drivers can file a lawsuit or insurance claim to collect funds for their damages — as long as they were not responsible for the collision.

If you suffer an injury in a car accident as a passenger, however, the pathway to recovery is not as clear. There are multiple avenues you can take to claim compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses related to the accident.

Are Drivers Responsible for Their Passengers?

Colorado is a fault insurance state, which means that drivers are responsible for paying for the damages in accidents they cause. State insurance laws require all drivers to purchase the following minimum amounts of liability insurance to protect themselves in case these collisions occur.

  • $25,000 in bodily injury or death liability per person per accident
  • $50,000 in total bodily injury or death liability per accident
  • $15,000 for property damage per accident

This liability insurance not only provides coverage for injured drivers, but passengers and pedestrians as well. When you enter another person’s vehicle, he or she becomes responsible for your safety. As a result, the driver’s liability insurance extends to you if he or she causes a car accident while you are in the vehicle.

Passengers’ Legal Options After a Car Accident

As an injured passenger, you have multiple options to seek compensation after an accident. Your optimal pathway will depend on the circumstances surrounding the crash and who was at fault for the collision.

  • Third-Party Claims: Since the at-fault driver is responsible for your damages, your first avenue to compensation will be through a claim against his or her insurance policy. You can file an insurance claim under the policy of the driver you were riding with, or another driver involved in the crash. However, you will need to prove that the policyholder is responsible for the accident.
  • Additional Insurance Coverage: If you are related to the policyholder and he or she is responsible for the accident, you will not be able to pursue a third-party claim. The insurance company will consider you an insured individual and thus ineligible for liability coverage. However, you may be eligible for compensation if the driver has the appropriate policy, such as medical payments coverage.
  • Personal Injury Lawsuit: If you are unable to receive adequate compensation through an insurance claim, you may be eligible for a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Civil claims allow you to collect more compensation than policy limits allow, as long as you can prove the responsible driver’s negligence.

Typically, most injured passengers file an insurance claim before proceeding to a lawsuit if necessary. However, there are some situations where a lawsuit may be your best legal option — especially if your damages exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits. To prove your right to compensation, however, you will need to prove that the driver’s negligent actions directly caused your injuries and damages. This will require an in-depth investigation and a thorough understanding of Colorado personal injury law.

Hiring an attorney can provide multiple benefits to your car accident claim. Your lawyer can help identify the person responsible for the crash, interpret insurance policies, and determine your best route to recovery. If you have not done so already, speak with a Denver car accident attorney as soon as possible to protect your right to compensation.

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