Passengers Never at Fault for Auto Accidents
A Colorado passenger injured in an auto accident will typically never be considered at fault for a collision since they were not operating the vehicle at the time of the crash. However, one or both drivers may be at fault, including the one operating the vehicle that was carrying the passenger, since the driver owes every passenger a duty to use reasonable care in the operation of the vehicle. If the duty of care is breached, it could result in the driver having to pay damages due to legal responsibility.
But being issued a citation does not necessarily indicate that they were legally at fault for the accident. Insurance companies tend to conduct their own investigation, review the accident report, and contact witnesses to make their own determination regarding whether or not their insured was at fault.
How a Passenger Can Receive Compensation
A passenger can collect for damages by filing a claim against the driver’s medical payments coverage or against the at-fault driver(s) liability insurance coverage. Here are some potential scenarios:
- In a single-vehicle collision resulting from a driver’s negligence, a passenger could have the right to sue the driver’s insurance carrier for past and future medical expenses, prescription costs, past and future lost income, disfigurement, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering arising from the accident.
- If two or more vehicles were involved in the accident, one driver might be deemed entirely at fault, or both could be found liable. A passenger may be able to file a claim against the at-fault driver or drivers and might be entitled to recover from both of them, based on their comparative fault.
- If the at-fault driver was not the registered owner of the vehicle, the owner of the car could be held independently liable for a passenger’s injuries, if the owner knowingly lent their vehicle to a driver they knew to be unsafe, or one that was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both.
- An injured passenger can also file a claim against their own insurance company, unless they are a spouse or family member who lives with the driver, particularly if the vehicle is co-owned by the driver and the passenger. Auto insurance companies typically do not allow these types of claims to prevent fraud.
What an Injured Passenger Needs to Do
A passenger injured in an automobile accident will need to do many of the same things that the driver(s) must do, including collecting the names, addresses, license numbers, and insurance information from the other parties involved. It is also important that passengers involved car accidents file injury claims in a timely manner, since they have only three years from the date of the accident to bring a legal claim under Colorado’s statues of limitations. In the case of death, family members have only two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Some passengers may be hesitant to file a claim for accident-related injuries, particularly if a close friend was driving the car. But it is not unreasonable to be compensated for injuries you did not cause, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. If you sustained serious injuries as a passenger in a motor vehicle, contact Colorado personal injury attorney Dan Rosen for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options.