When a car accident happens, much of the attention gets paid to the drivers of the vehicles who were involved. However, just because they were not driving does not mean that the passengers cannot be hurt, as well. In fact, in many crashes, it is a passenger who is left the worst off and in dire need of immediate medical attention.
If you were the passenger in a car when there was a collision that ended with you getting seriously hurt, you might be wondering what your legal rights are and whether you can get compensation for your injuries if it was the driver of your vehicle that caused the crash.
The short answer is yes, you can sue if you were the passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a car accident in Maryland. However, there are some aspects of these lawsuits that make them different and that take the knowledge and experience of a skilled personal injury attorney to win.
The Legal Rights of a Passenger
If you were a passenger in a car or truck and were hurt in an accident, it is only an exceptionally rare occasion where the crash was your fault. Nearly every accident is caused by one of the drivers. Therefore, because you were an innocent victim of the crash, you deserve to be compensated for your injuries because it would be unfair to expect you to bear the cost of a recovery that you are not responsible for causing.
Precisely because it is so rare for a passenger to cause a car accident, enforcing your legal rights as a passenger is much simpler than enforcing them as a driver. All a passenger has to do is file a personal injury lawsuit against all of the drivers involved and collect compensation from whichever one is found to have been responsible for the accident.
But What if the Responsible Driver is a Close Friend or Family Member?
Most of the time, the passengers in a vehicle have a personal relationship with the driver of their vehicle. Typically, a driver and his or her passengers are family members or close friends. Rarely are they complete strangers to one another.
This personal relationship often makes injured passengers balk at filing a lawsuit for compensation. They do not want to file a lawsuit, only to find that the driver who caused the crash was their friend or loved one because, if that happens, they are suddenly suing someone who means a lot to them.
Luckily, this dilemma is a false one, unless your friend was driving without insurance and would be compensating you out of his or her own pocket. In most cases, the compensation for your injuries would come from the responsible driver's insurance company, who is getting paid regular premiums precisely for such a situation as this one. Your friend or loved one's insurance rates might rise after the crash, but that spike is due to their responsibility for the accident, not your injuries, and would happen regardless of whether you got the compensation that you need and deserve.
Insurance Companies Will Leverage Your Relationship With the Driver
Because this emotional dilemma of suing your friend or family member is a fake one, it does not mean that insurance companies will not try to take advantage of it. Insurance companies exist to make a profit and will do whatever it takes to minimize the amount they pay out in claims. In fact, you can count on the insurance company leveraging the fact that you are personally connected with the at-fault driver as soon as they learn of it, pressuring you to accept their low-ball settlement offer so you do not have to bring your friend or loved one to court.
As we mentioned earlier, this is not what happens. But insurance companies will pretend that your claim for compensation will impact your friend or loved one's insurance or will amount to a lawsuit against them, personally, if that is what it will take to make you accept their settlement offer.
Other Potential Insurance Complications
Another unique aspect to a personal injury lawsuit filed by a passenger injured in a car accident is the suspicion that it raises in the eyes of an insurance company. Insurance companies are wary of people faking a car accident and creating a lawsuit for injuries that they brought upon themselves. While this rarely happens, insurance companies who see a passenger suing an at-fault driver who they have a personal relationship with are bound to investigate the incident more closely to see if it is an instance of insurance fraud.
This possibility of insurance fraud was such a concern that the insurance lobby managed to get most of the states in the U.S. to pass “guest statutes” in the late 1920s and 1930s. These laws prohibited injured passengers from suing the driver of their own vehicle for compensation. Luckily, these statutes fell out of favor and all but one state (Alabama) has since repealed it. Maryland was one of a minority of states in the country to have never passed one.
However, there might be other insurance issues that can limit the amount that you are able to recover in a suit against the driver of your vehicle. Depending on your insurance policy, you might only be able to recover an amount up to the policy's coverage, and you might not be able to use your policy's uninsured or underinsured coverages.
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
Just because you were a passenger in a car that was involved in a wreck does not mean that you do not have legal options. You got hurt through no fault of your own, so you should get compensated. Any lawsuit you file will just have a few unique intangibles that can complicate matters.
That is where the personal injury attorneys at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian can help. Contact us online for the legal representation you need.