As a passenger, you can never be at fault for a car accident. You might think that this means every passenger case is cut and dry. Unless liability is clear, for example, a rear end accident, it might not be so simple.
When there is more than one possible at-fault party, a passenger’s claim can get held up in the middle of a fight between the drivers as to who caused the accident. This can cause an innocent passenger’s claim to be denied by both drivers’ insurance company, putting the passenger in a tough spot, especially if your driver is a close friend or family member.
But as a passenger, you actually have two claims –a claim against the driver of the other vehicle, as well as a claim against your own driver. The safest thing a passenger can do is make a claim against both drivers. Since a passenger can’t be at fault, this covers all your bases.
Under most circumstances, the passenger doesn’t want to make a claim against their own driver. While this is, of course, the passenger’s right, this situation presents the passenger with a different set of challenges.
First of all, if the driver of the other vehicle feels that he or she is only partially at fault for the accident, their insurance company will only offer the passenger half of what they believe they are entitled to, expecting the driver of the passenger’s vehicle to contribute half.
If the passenger is comfortable with making a claim against their own driver as well as the other driver, and both insurance companies claim partial responsibility, this may result in an acceptable resolution for the passenger.
But more often than not, at least one of the drivers will claim that he or she is not at fault at all. This may result in the passenger being forced to file suit to obtain the full value of his or her claim.
Legally, a passenger can choose to sue only the other driver and is entitled to a judgment against them for the full amount of their damages.
However, the other driver also has a right to make a claim against the driver of your vehicle, and ask the court to force your driver to contribute. This could result in a judgment against your own driver, even if you didn’t file a claim against them.
Because of these conflicts, passenger cases are complicated.
We deal with hundreds of passenger cases every year and have a number of strategies that we employ in order to obtain the best resolution for all passengers while being considerate of our passenger client’s relationships with their drivers.
If you or a family member has been injured or killed in a car accident in Virginia caused by the fault or negligence of another person and would like to consult an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney for free, contact us at (855) 954-4141 to schedule an appointment at one of our office locations in Manassas or throughout Virginia.