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After a car accident, injured passengers have just as many rights as injured drivers. In fact, it can be even easier for a passenger to make an injury claim after a car accident since the passenger does not have to prove fault. In the vast majority of cases, someone other than the passenger is liable for the car accident. Some passenger injury claims, however, may have unique challenges.
In Missouri, the driver or party at fault for the car accident will be liable, or financially responsible, for injuries and losses. The at-fault party will have to pay for victims’ injuries through his or her insurance carrier. This includes victims who were injured as passengers. All injured passengers will seek financial recovery from the at-fault party through what is known as a third-party car insurance claim.
A passenger will make an insurance claim just like an injured driver after an auto accident. The difference is the passenger is not asked to prove the policyholder’s fault or liability. An injured driver, on the other hand, must prove the other driver’s fault before an insurance company will accept the claim.
The injured passenger should receive medical treatment for his or her injuries, reach the point of maximum medical improvement, and then file a claim with the insurance carrier of the driver who caused the crash. If both drivers share fault for the car accident, the passenger can file claims with both insurance companies for maximum financial compensation.
In most cases, an injured passenger can receive an adequate settlement for his or her injuries and losses from one or both drivers’ insurance carriers without issue. Sometimes, however, unique circumstances place a portion of legal responsibility with the passenger. This might be the case if the passenger contributed to the accident by distracting the driver or grabbing the steering wheel, for example.
If a passenger is partially liable for a car accident in Missouri, the comparative negligence defense will diminish the financial recovery available by a proportionate amount. Twenty percent of fault for the crash, for example, would diminish a passenger’s recovery by 20%. Since Missouri uses a pure comparative negligence rule, a passenger could be up to 99% at fault for a crash and still recover 1% of an award.
A passenger could also encounter issues if the insurance companies of the at-fault drivers dispute liability. If both drivers bear a percentage of the blame, and both of their insurance companies are refuting liability, it can be more difficult for the passenger to receive a settlement check for his or her medical bills and losses. These cases may end up going before a judge and jury to allocate a percentage of fault to one or both drivers. If an innocent passenger gets caught in the middle of an insurance dispute where neither side wants to settle, this could unnecessarily delay the passenger’s settlement.
Another challenge an injured passenger could face when pursuing financial recovery is running out of insurance coverage. This is a possibility if there were multiple passengers injured in the auto accident. The at-fault driver’s automobile insurance policy will only cover up to a maximum amount of victims’ losses. If the number of passengers means the amount of damages exceed the policy limits, it can be more difficult for each passenger to obtain a fair settlement.
If you were recently injured as a passenger in a car accident in Kansas City, consult with an attorney near you for assistance with the claims process. An attorney can provide representation during an insurance claim to maximize your financial recovery, even if you encounter challenges or obstacles.