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What Rights Does an Injured Passenger Have After a Car Crash?

It is obvious to most people that they can file an insurance claim against the driver who hits the car or truck they were riding in. Victims of crashes caused by people they do not know just assume they can attempt to hold the at-fault driver liable for harming them and saddling them with unexpected medical expenses, loss of wages and pain and suffering. They are correct.

On the other hand, motorcycle passengers and passengers who suffer injuries in single-vehicle crashes often hesitate to seek compensation. They wonder if the driver can be found legally responsible when no other vehicles were involved. Even more, they worry about ruining a friendship or alienating a relative.

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Such dilemmas arise daily. The Highway Loss Data Institute of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that in 2018, 57 percent of all crashes in Virginia involved just one vehicle. The preceding year, Northern Virginia news radio station WTOP cited AAA research that revealed that 62 percent of fatal wrecks in the state were single-vehicle crashes.

Most recently, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recorded 13,508 passenger injuries and 135 passenger deaths in wrecks on state roads and highways during 2019. As a longtime Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorney, I can state with great confidence that each of the surviving passengers and all the families of the passengers who lost their lives had grounds for exploring the possibility of filing an insurance claim or lawsuit. This is true even if the injuries or deaths occurred in a wreck involving just one car, truck or motorcycle.

A driver’s duties to operate safely and maintain control never go away. When they fail to meet those duties by, for example, running off the road after becoming distracted behind the wheel or laying down their bike while taking a turn too fast, the driver can be held liable for harming their passenger.

Should the driver lack insurance or carry too little liability coverage to fully compensate the person they hurt, the crash victim should be able to access the uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage of their own policy. Virginia requires every car insurance policy sold in the state to include these coverages.

Finally, to address the issue of whether an injured passenger should seek compensation following a crash caused by a friend or relative, the legal answer is yes. Even though the at-fault driver will be named, the case itself will be handled almost entirely by insurance claims adjusters. 

EJL

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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