Passengers who are injured have circumstances that require the attention of an experienced attorney:
Many times, passengers in car accidents are the overlooked victims. While insurance companies attempt to establish fault between the two drivers, the passenger can be lost in the process even though their injuries are just as severe, if not more so than those of the drivers. Due to the comparative fault system in Texas, and similar systems throughout most of the country, the insurance situation can be further complicated for the passenger as they attempt to pursue a claim to cover their damages. Add in the fact that insurance companies will not exactly be advertising that they could be liable for a portion of the damages and you have a truly complex legal situation.
Passengers in accidents stand a greater chance than other parties of not being made whole, or being low-balled by insurance companies. The experienced car accident attorneys at Dallas-based Grossman Law Offices will help cut through the confusing legal muddle of injured passengers trying to recoup damages after a car accident.
Questions answered on this page:
- Which insurance company do I sue if I was a passenger injured in a car accident?
- Is it possible that my own insurance will pay for my injuries?
- I keep getting passed back and forth between the two drivers' insurance companies. What do I do?
- How can an experienced car accident attorney help with my case?
What scenarios permit a passenger to recover for losses in a car accident case?
There are typically two situations, where a passenger is injured, that trigger different ways of recovery:
- First and foremost, if you were a passenger in a vehicle that was hit by another negligent driver, then you have several different avenues of relief. Assuming that the negligent driver responsible for the accident carries auto insurance, you may file a compensation claim to his/her insurance provider. If some action on the part of the driver of the vehicle you were riding in contributed to the accident, then you may also file a subsequent claim against his/her insurance provider.
- In the second scenario, you are a passenger in the vehicle that caused the accident and the other party did not contribute in any way to the accident. If that is the case, then you may file a claim against the driver's insurance policy to seek compensation for your injuries.
Unfortunately though, things aren't always simple. Oftentimes, there are multiple passengers that are injured in one or both vehicles. In some cases, only one of the drivers has insurance on their vehicle, or even possibly, neither driver has insurance. Factors such as these can turn a routine car accident into a legal nightmare that only an experienced attorney can rectify. Regardless, in the event that you are a passenger in either car, know that you are entitled to file a claim against the defendant's insurance company.
Another consideration when there are multiple passengers is that the medical bills for multiple injured passengers and drivers can far outstrip the modest limits on most passenger car insurance policies. This means that you will have potentially 4, 5, or more people with claims to a relatively small amount of money. In general, an insurance company will do what it can to prevent paying the maximum amount on the policy, which further reduces the amount of funds available, they still want to make money after all.
Furthermore, someone in that group will almost certainly have legal representation. This can give that person more leverage against the insurance company, allowing that person to get a disproportionate share of the money available, because they present a greater legal danger to the insurance company. This is a nightmare to sort through for inexperienced attorneys who understand the law through their legal training, it can become next to impossible for the average person to navigate. This means that deserving claims could go unpaid because the insurance company has already given all of the money to another person injured in the accident, making your claim worthless and your injuries uncompensated.
How the insurance companies will complicate your efforts to recover damages.
It is important to understand how insurance companies are designed to work after the car wreck. When a party is found to be at fault for an accident, their insurance company is supposed to compensate the injured person for any medical treatment and the expenses that result. Unfortunately, as we have chronicled in other articles and through our 25 years of helping injured motorists, insurance companies are much better at collecting premiums and making catchy television commercials than they are at compensating victims. They will fight you every step of the way, if you do not except whatever initial low-ball offer they extend to you.
This even applies if you (as the injured passenger) have personal injury protection insurance, which may potentially allow you to file a claim against your own insurance policy for compensation for your injuries. As soon as you lodge a claim, your own insurance company is likely to start acting like the other insurance companies you are already fighting with. At first, they will appear quite friendly, but this is just a tactic to get you to reveal as much information as possible, so they have some reason to minimize your claim. Then, once they have set a value on your injuries, generally a lower value than what you need, they will stick to their guns and be a lot less friendly than they were before. There are many different factors that go into their strategy, but the bottom line is that they will use any and every reason to limit the amount they offer you.
In many cases, passengers have to seek compensation from as many as three different insurance policies. In these instances, the insurance companies will turn on each other, trying to pin the blame on anyone but their client. The shame for injured passengers is that all of this bickering goes on while medical and household bills continue to pile up. There is a temptation to accept some money from one company, while still trying to negotiate with the others, but accepting this money will merely cause the other companies to attempt to shift liability to whichever party you accepted money from. Even if it is your own personal injury policy that pays you a bit, the other companies will look for ways that you as the passenger contributed to your own injuries.
What types of damages may I be awarded?
As an injured passenger in the state of Texas, you are entitled to be compensated for three categories of damages. These three types of damages are called special, general, exemplary damages.
Special damages are damages, which are easy to put a monetary value on, such as lost income, property damage and medical expenses. While less obvious than the other categories of special damages, there is a possibility that you could have permanent injuries that will affect your ability to earn a living for the rest of your life and your car accident case can allow you to be awarded a monetary sum for any loss of earning capacity that you have suffered.
For illustration purposes, imagine you were an electrician who usually earns $60,000.00 annually and are paralyzed because of a car accident, you may no longer be able to perform your job. As such, this accident directly resulted in your loss of income for the next twenty years. That will theoretically entitle you to at least $1.2 million dollars in special damages as a result of your loss of earning capacity alone. Of course, most policy limits are lower than this amount, so it would be difficult to recover the full amount of damages.
General damages are those, which by their very nature are difficult to put an economic figure on. It is easy to prove lost income, or show medical bills, but how do you put a price on disfigurement? These damages can include, pain and suffering, loss of affection of loved ones, mental anxiety, and possibly, damaged reputation that you have suffered because of this car accident. Car accidents can be very traumatic events and you may need to seek therapy or counseling to deal with the impact this accident has had on you mentally and emotionally. If you are suffering from sleep deprivation or your loved ones are no longer able to provide you with the affection you once enjoyed because of your injury, then you can seek compensation in the form of general damages for these issues.
The issue with general damages is that they are so subjective and Texas juries are generally skeptical of different categories of general damages. They have to be proved up by experts and presented in a way that helps the jury understand that as the law is written, general damages are just as legitimate as the more easily quantified special damages. It usually takes the skill of an experienced car accident attorney, who has developed a stable of believable experts who can testify on your behalf to drive the point home to a jury that these are real damages that you should be compensated for. You can be certain if you are dealing with an insurance company without representation they will not acknowledge this class of damages.
This class of damages serve to punish companies where gross negligence has been proven. A general rule of thumb for gross negligence is that it's an act that shocks the senses. For instance drunk drivers who are speeding down the road and injure people folks are typically guilty of gross negligence. The formula for calculating exemplary damages is found in the Civil Practices and Remedies Code Sec. 41.008:
LIMITATION ON AMOUNT OF RECOVERY. (a) In an action in which a claimant seeks recovery of damages, the trier of fact shall determine the amount of economic damages separately from the amount of other compensatory damages.
(b) Exemplary damages awarded against a defendant may not exceed an amount equal to the greater of:
(1)(A) two times the amount of economic damages; plus
(B) an amount equal to any noneconomic damages found by the jury, not to exceed $750,000; or
As you can see, exemplary damages depend on your lawyer proving gross negligence and the amount awarded for other damages. The most important takeaway is that in certain instances, exemplary damages offer another potential source of damages to help you recover from your injuries.
If you were a passenger injured in a car accident, don't take chances with your case.
If one thing should be clear by now, is just how murky recovering damages can get when you are a passenger injured in a car accident. Your injuries were almost certainly the result of one of the drivers, but without experience legal representation, you have no leverage with the insurance company and no way to prove liability if you attempt to go to court. The attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have helped thousands of people through the years in situations just like yours. To discuss the particulars of your car accident case, contact Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000 .
If you were injured in a car accident, these related articles may be of interest to you:
- Running a Stop Sign and Negligence Per Se Arguments
- How Car Accident Investigations Work
- How an "Act of God" Defense Works in a Car Accident Case
- What Are the Auto Liability Minimums in Texas?