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Written by: Steven R. Clawson
| Read Time: 3 minutes

Navigating a personal injury claim after an accident is hard enough as a driver, but what if you are a passenger in a car accident? 

In California, the process for passengers who request compensation slightly differs from that for drivers. As a result, passengers often have a difficult time figuring out how to file their claim. At Wells Call Injury Lawyers, our experienced personal injury attorneys know the ins and outs of the claims process for passengers. Whether you sustain an injury due to the negligence of your driver or another on the road, we can help.

I Was a Passenger in a Car Accident—Now What?

The process for collecting evidence after a car accident is mostly the same if you are a passenger. Immediately following the accident, make sure you seek medical attention if necessary. Once safe, try to gather as much information as you can. This includes:

  • Names of all drivers involved;
  • Auto insurance information for all drivers;
  • Witness statements; and
  • Photographs of the scene.

After the accident, you may want to get copies of your medical record relating to your injuries and a police accident report. If you have any trouble obtaining this information, an attorney can help.

California Laws Affecting a Passenger in a Car Accident

According to Vehicle Code 21701, a passenger must not “wilfully interfere with the driver of a vehicle.” This means that if the passenger takes control of the vehicle away from the driver, they may be held liable for the resulting accident. In addition, due to a ruling by the California Court of Appeals in Navarrete v. Meyer, passengers may also be liable if they give the driver unsafe instructions.

The laws concerning accident claims with uninsured drivers are a little more confusing. For example, Section 3333.4 of the California Civil Code states that a driver cannot recover non-economic damages after a car accident if they are uninsured. However, this does not apply to the passenger. Even if the driver doesn’t have insurance, the injured passenger may still pursue compensation for their injuries.

Passenger in a Car Accident: Settlement Process

After an accident, you will most likely file a claim with the insurance company of the driver who is at fault for your injuries. While it’s possible to file a claim with an insurance company on your own, having a personal injury attorney helps. 

Since California follows a pure comparative negligence doctrine, the percentage of fault attributed to each driver may be different. According to Section 1714 of the California Civil Code, “everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another.” For example, it may turn out that the driver of the other car is 60% at fault for the accident and the driver of the car in which you were a passenger is 40% at fault. This means you may need to seek compensation from both insurance companies.

Can I File a Claim with My Own Insurance Company?

If you are a passenger in a car accident, you should file a claim with the insurance company of the driver or drivers responsible. However, if this isn’t possible because a driver is uninsured, there are a few options available.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Your auto insurance plan should include an option for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. This protects the insurance holder if a driver without adequate insurance coverage causes their injuries. In California, this coverage is considered optional to keep premiums low, but it’s important to have in case you are hit by an uninsured driver. If you don’t have this coverage, you may not be able to get any compensation for your injuries.

Medical Payments Coverage

Another optional upgrade for your insurance plan is medical payments coverage. This covers any medical bills you incur due to your accident injuries. The good news is that medical payments coverage works for any auto accident. You do not need to be driving, and it doesn’t have to involve your vehicle.

Health Insurance

This is the best way to ensure that your medical bills are taken care of while negotiating a settlement. Every health insurance provider must offer medical bill coverage, whether through subrogation or a flexible payment plan.

Have a Passenger in a Car Accident Claim? 

Wells Call Injury Lawyers has been representing injured clients in northern California for more than 30 years. Our experienced team of personal injury attorneys will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you need to recover.

Contact us today to schedule a free case review. We serve clients from our offices in Napa, Fairfield, Vallejo, Vacaville, Woodland, and Richmond, CA.

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