What Claims Does a Passenger in a Car Accident Have?
November 16th, 2017
Passengers involved in automobile accidents are in a very unique position to make claims compared to those who are drivers. Because of the way liability is determined in traffic accidents in Texas, passengers have potential claims against the drivers of other vehicles involved, potential claims against their own driver and potential claims against their own insurance company. Furthermore, passenger claims are not subject to many of the defenses that drivers may have to overcome in a traffic accident that is disputed.
How Liability in Traffic Accident Cases Works in Texas
Liability for automobile accidents is determined by the negligence standard. What some people do not realize is that there can be, and often is, more than one negligent party to an accident. When liability is disputed, a lawsuit must often be filed and then jury is asked to apportion liability amongst the drivers by each driver’s own percentage of responsibility. That percentage is then applied to the total amount jury finds would fairly compensate the injured party to determine each driver’s share. Thus, anyone involved in a car accident may have claims against all the drivers involved, depending upon the facts.
Passenger’s Right to Sue Drivers of Other Vehicles
Just like the driver of the vehicle, the passenger has a right to bring a claim and/or sue the drive of any other vehicles that caused or contributed to the collision. A driver, however, may be barred from recovery partially or entirely due to his percentage of negligence for causing the collision. Passengers generally have no control nor contribution to the cause of the collision, thus, this is typically not true for passengers. The passenger may recover that percentage for which the other driver is responsible directly from the driver and they may also be entitled to hold that driver responsible for the negligence of other drivers under joint and several liability if a the driver upon which liability is sought to be imposed is over 50% at fault for the collision.
The Negligence Free Passenger’s Rights to Sue Their Own Driver
One advantage a passenger has over the driver is that the passenger is not barred from recovering any percentage of responsibility placed on the driver. The passenger simply recovers that portion from the driver and/or the driver’s liability insurance company in a passenger claim. This is what is commonly known as being a “negligence free passenger.” A negligence free passenger often enjoys the highly advantageous position of being able to sit back and let the other drivers fight out who is at fault without any concern that liability will be deflected on the passenger.
In addition to a passenger being able to make a claim against the driver’s liability insurance policy, there are other parts of the policy the passenger may claim against. If the driver maintains personal injury protection (PIP) insurance or medical payment (MedPay) insurance, then the passenger may file a claim against the driver’s policy for those benefits. If the driver maintained uninsured and under insured motorist benefits, then the passenger may make a claim against those so long as the conditions precedent to filing such a claim are met. Furthermore, it is worth noting here that the passenger does not need the driver’s permission to file any passenger claim against the driver’s insurance policy.
Passenger Claims Against Their Own Insurance Company
If the passenger was a named insured on a policy that was issued to cover their own vehicle, then they may make claims for certain benefits there as well. Personal injury protection claims and MedPay claims may be “stacked” so that the injured passenger can file for benefits under both this policy and the vehicle driver’s policy. Uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits (UM/UIM) may also be claimed against the passenger’s own insurance policy. Generally, when there are two or more UM/UIM policies at play, they will share responsibility to pay the damages in proportion to the size of each policy.
In short, the negligence free passenger is in a very advantageous position compared to the driver of the vehicle. Not only does he enjoy the right to bring the same claims against other drivers, he can bring additional claims against the driver and his own policy that the driver does not enjoy. However, it is extremely important that the passenger understand what is covered by an automobile insurance policy. If you are a negligence free passenger, navigating the waters and percentages can be difficult. It can be easy to miss the opportunity to make an additional claim to the untrained eye. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. for a free consultation today: 800-298-0111.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2005. He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017-2019, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give educational talks and media interviews regarding personal injury law issues..