There’s a lot of legal advice available out there that details exactly what you should do, who you should call, and what you can expect after you’ve been involved in a car crash. But many of those resources tend to focus on the driver of the car involved—whether it was the driver of the car who is responsible for the accident or not. Sometimes, it seems like a whole category of people has been left out of this advice: the passengers in those cars. And that makes it difficult to know what your options are if you fall into that category.
If you weren’t driving the car involved in the crash, you may be feeling overwhelmed about how it all happened and what it all means for you. As a passenger, you may have no idea who caused the car crash and who should be held responsible for the damage caused, which can leave you wondering what you’re supposed to do next.
The good news is that even if you weren’t driving the car that was involved in the crash, it’s likely that you do have options for recovering compensation for any damages you might have suffered, like injuries. But where that compensation will come from, and often how much compensation is available to you, is dependent upon who is found at fault for the accident.
If the Vehicle You Were in was At-Fault
If you are a passenger injured in a car accident driven by someone who causes the accident in some way, you may file a claim against the car insurance company that covers that specific driver or the vehicle you were in. Most car insurance policies usually provide some type of coverage for the passengers inside the vehicle and not just the driver of the vehicle or the people who are named under their insurance policy.
That said, if you are a passenger injured in a car accident that also happens to be a member of the driver’s household, or more specifically are named under the actual insurance policy of the driver or vehicle, your processes for receiving compensation for your injuries may look a little different.
Many state laws will often exclude household members and spouses from coverage when they are injured as passengers, but Missouri state law provides provisions against this total exclusion. Under the Missouri Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (R.S.Mo 303.190), household and/or same-policy passengers are entitled to minimum statutory liability requirements. In other words, these passengers may be able to receive coverage up to certain defined dollar amounts depending on the damage:
- $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability
- $50,000 maximum when more than one person is injured
- $10,000 in property damage
Whether or not these coverage amounts are enough to provide the compensation you need to address your damages depends on the extent of the damages suffered. But residents of Missouri are lucky that such liability requirements are written into our state laws at all when many other states have no such laws in place.
If Another Vehicle was At-Fault
When the driver of another vehicle involved in the car accident is found to be entirely at fault for the crash, and you were a passenger in another car that was involved in that crash, you are also entitled to file a claim to recover compensation for damages suffered. In this case, however, you would likely file your claim against the responsible driver’s insurance company, rather than the insurance company of the driver of your car.
Much the same as the driver of the car you were riding in is entitled to do so, as a passenger, you are also entitled to file your claim and recover full and fair compensation for your damages in an amount up to the policy limits offered by the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
However, it’s also important to note that if several people were injured in the car accident, and they all plan on filing a claim against the at-fault driver for compensation, it’s common for insurance policies to place a maximum per-accident limit for coverage. That might mean there’s not enough monetary coverage to go around for everyone who needs proper compensation for all their medical care and other losses.
If your medical expenses are more than the insurance policy provides, whether you’re the only one injured or not, you may want to speak to a Missouri car accident lawyer about what your options are to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and their insurance company. This is especially true if your own auto insurance policy doesn’t include additional coverage like medical payments or underinsured motorist coverage (more on those later).
If Both Vehicles were At-Fault
There are many times when it’s found that both or all cars involved in a single crash may be found at partial fault for the accident. It could be that both cars didn’t follow the rules or laws of the road properly, leading to an accident that caused harm to them and/or others around them. When this is found to be true, then what are your rights as a passenger in one of those cars?
In this case, you as the injured passenger may actually file separate claims against both drivers’ insurance companies. When that happens, your compensation will come from two different sources, and the amount of each will be determined according to percentages.
After a thorough investigation of the accident is done and the causes of the accident are determined to have come from both sides, each driver will be assigned a percentage of fault for the accident. For example, it might be found that Driver A was 70 percent at-fault, and Driver B was 30 percent at-fault. That means each driver’s insurance company will pay the injured passenger the corresponding percentage that is allocated to their own insured drivers. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being provided with more compensation than normal—it usually just means that your total compensation is coming from two different sources, which can actually be even more difficult to manage, as insurance company tactics make working with them more than challenging.
Options Under Your Own Insurance Provider
Though it might feel easier to just rely on another person’s car insurance policy to cover the damages you’ve suffered when you were a passenger in a car, it’s never a bad idea to explore the options your own insurance provider has to offer in these scenarios.
For example, many Missouri state insurance providers offer an additional option for medical payments coverage, which will pay your medical bills after an accident up to a specified amount. Medical payments coverage applies to you no matter whose vehicle you were a passenger in and allows you to file a claim both with your own insurance company for that coverage, as well as still file a claim against the insurance company of the at-fault driver for additional coverage. Adding this plan to your policy is an excellent option for ensuring you have more coverage to address your potential damages.
You also have the option to add something called underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage to your own car insurance plan. This optional coverage protects you when the driver who is found to be at fault does not have enough (or any) insurance needed to pay for all of the damages you suffered in the accident. As a passenger, you are able to claim this coverage on both the vehicle you were riding in (even if it wasn’t yours), as well as on your own personal policy.
Because these additional forms of coverage tend to not be expensive to add to your plan, they’re a great backup option to have. But whether you add them to your policy or not, you can rest a little easier knowing that you, too, have rights as a passenger whenever you’re involved in a serious crash.