Find A Lawyer Legal Articles Attorney Login

Compensation for Passenger Injuries in California

Offered by Clancy & Diaz, LLP

Passenger injury claims can be complex, but an attorney can help you find your way forward

Passengers often find themselves in a situation where they have limited control over a driver's actions, making it challenging to prevent a car accident. While passengers can verbally alert drivers to potential hazards or advise them to slow down or avoid distractions like texting, accidents can still happen due to factors beyond their control.

In the unfortunate event that a collision occurs, passengers may sustain injuries. However, passengers have legal rights, and they are entitled to seek compensation for the damages they incur as a result of the accident. If you are a passenger who has been injured in a collision in California, it's essential to understand that you have legal options.

An experienced passenger injury lawyer in California can assess your case, determine the extent of your damages, and advocate on your behalf. Whether through negotiation with insurance companies for a fair settlement or pursuing legal action in court, an attorney can work diligently to secure the maximum compensation you deserve.

If you've been injured as a passenger in a car accident, don't hesitate to schedule a free consultation with a California lawyer. It's the first step in gaining a clearer understanding of your rights and pursuing the compensation you need to recover from your injuries.

Which factors increase the risk of passenger injuries?

Passengers are at risk of injuries in car accidents due to several factors, including:

  • Impact forces: A vehicle rapidly accelerates or decelerates during a collision. This may result in passengers being thrown against parts of the car or ejected from the vehicle.
  • Position in a vehicle: Depending on where a passenger is seated, they may be more vulnerable in certain types of collisions. For example, passengers sitting on the side of a car that is struck in a side-impact collision are at greater risk of sustaining serious injuries.
  • Inadequate safety measures: If passengers are not using seat belts or if a car is not equipped with adequate safety features (e.g., functioning seatbelts, airbags, or proper structural integrity), the risk of injury increases significantly.
  • Secondary collisions: After the initial impact, passengers may be injured by secondary collisions within the car, such as hitting the dashboard, windows, or other occupants.

How much money can a passenger in a car accident get?

Compensation depends on several factors and varies from case to case. The specific amount is typically influenced by the following:

  • The extent and nature of your injuries: This includes medical expenses (both current and future), rehabilitation costs, and compensation for any permanent disabilities or disfigurement.
  • Lost wages and loss of earning capacity: If your injuries prevent you from working, your compensation will likely include lost wages. It may also include future lost earnings if the injuries lead to a decreased earning capacity.
  • Pain and suffering: This non-economic damage covers the physical pain and emotional distress caused by the car accident. The calculation for pain and suffering varies and is highly subjective.

I was a passenger in a car accident. Who do I sue?

If you sustained injuries as a passenger in a car accident, you have the right to seek compensation from the at-fault party for your losses. This can include:

  • The driver of the car you were in at the time of the crash: If the car accident was caused by the negligence of the driver of the car you were in, you might have a claim against them.
  • A driver in another vehicle: If another vehicle was involved and that driver's actions contributed to or caused your injury, you can file a claim against this driver.
  • Both drivers: In some cases, both drivers might share responsibility for the car accident. In such a scenario, you might be able to sue both drivers.
  • Employer of the driver: If the driver was working and driving as part of their job when the car accident occurred (e.g., a taxi, delivery driver, limo, or rideshare driver), their employer might be liable under certain conditions.
  • Vehicle manufacturer: If a vehicle defect contributed to the car accident, you might have a claim against a vehicle or parts manufacturer.

What if I was a passenger in a bus accident?

Bus passenger injuries are common when passengers get thrown from their seats during a collision, sharp turn, or rollover. Some buses may not be equipped with seatbelts or may have inadequate safety measures to protect passengers during a crash or sudden stop.

If the bus driver caused the accident, the bus company is typically held responsible for their employee's actions under the legal doctrine of "respondeat superior." A bus company can also be liable if the accident was due to failure to maintain the vehicle, inadequate driver training, or other organizational negligence.

If a public transit authority operates the bus, the process for suing might be different due to government immunity laws. Most government entities require a formal notice of claim to be filed before you can sue them. In California, you have six months to file this claim. 
Additionally, if the accident was caused by another vehicle, you might sue the driver of that vehicle.

What if the at-fault driver doesn’t have auto insurance?

A car accident with an uninsured driver or an unidentified driver who leaves the scene of a crash is a tricky situation to navigate. Fortunately, California offers uninsured motorist (UM) coverage as an optional add-on to your car insurance policy.

For example, let's say the driver of another vehicle caused your car accident, and that driver is uninsured. If the driver of the vehicle you were in has UM insurance, their coverage can pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 

But what if the driver of your vehicle is uninsured? You’re probably not completely out of options. If you have car insurance and have added UM to your policy, you can turn to your own insurance company for compensation. 

If you don’t have UM coverage, and the driver of the vehicle you were in doesn’t have it, you may want to explore additional options. 

If you have medical payments (MedPay), you can seek compensation for your medical expenses up to the policy limit. If you get MedPay in California, you must have a limit of at least $1,000. Some drivers carry between $10,000 and $100,000. This type of insurance is completely optional in California. 

You could also potentially use your health insurance policy to cover some medical costs. However, depending on your policy terms and deductible, you may have to pay some out-of-pocket expenses. 

Insurance companies and passenger injury claims

When it comes to passenger injury claims, dealing with insurance companies can be a complex and often challenging process. Insurance providers involved in passenger injury cases may employ various tactics and strategies to protect their interests and minimize the compensation they have to pay to crash victims. As such, it's essential to understand how insurance companies typically handle passenger injury claims:

  • Determining liability: Insurance companies will typically investigate the accident thoroughly to establish liability. They may assess the roles of all parties involved, including the drivers of the vehicles and any third parties. Their goal is to determine who is at fault for the accident. However, insurance companies are financially incentivized to pay crash victims as little as possible. That means their opinion of who’s responsible can be biased.
  • Communication: Insurance adjusters may contact passengers shortly after the accident to gather information about the incident. A passenger should use extreme caution when providing statements or information to an insurance adjuster, as any statements made could be used against them later to reduce or deny their claim.
  • Settlement offers: Insurance companies may offer early settlement amounts to passengers. These initial offers are often lower than the actual value of the claim. Passengers should be careful about accepting these offers without a thorough assessment of their damages and injuries. A lawyer can help assess the true value of a claim.
  • Medical records: Insurance providers will often request access to passengers' medical records to evaluate the extent and severity of their injuries. Passengers should be prepared for their medical history and records to be scrutinized by the insurance company if they allow the insurance company access. It’s often best to let a lawyer deal with the insurance company instead.
  • Claims denial: In some cases, insurance companies may outright deny passenger injury claims, arguing that their policyholders were not at fault or that the passenger's injuries are not as severe as claimed. Passengers facing claim denials should be prepared to dispute these decisions.
  • Negotiations: Passengers may need to negotiate with the insurance company to secure a fair settlement. Insurance adjusters often aim to settle for as little as possible, so passengers should be prepared to advocate for their rights.

Dealing with insurance companies following a passenger injury in California can be overwhelming. Seeking legal advice and representation can help passengers navigate the process, uphold their rights, and maximize their chances of receiving fair compensation for their injuries and damages.

Injured as a passenger in a California car accident? Protect your rights

Again, navigating a passenger injury claim in California alone can be exceptionally complex, especially if you’ve never filed one before. Any error in the process can potentially hurt your chances of being fully compensated for your damages, meaning you could have to pay out of pocket for someone else’s negligence.

Many injured passengers in California find it beneficial to seek legal representation from a verified car accident lawyer. An attorney can protect your rights, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and pursue legal action if necessary.

If you have any questions regarding your potential claim, you can get honest answers during a free, no-obligation consultation. Contact a car accident lawyer in California today to review your potential legal options.

Personal Injury Assistance
Clancy & Diaz, LLP
Power Profile

Founded in 2007, Clancy & Diaz, LLP is a personal injury law firm with offices in Walnut Creek and Antioch, CA. Attorney Pete Clancy is a highly regarded trial attorney who has wo...