After a car accident in Los Angeles, especially one resulting in injury, a lot of emphases is put on deciding which driver is at fault. Often overlooked are the passengers, who are almost never to blame for the accident, but often suffer significant injuries.
If you are hurt in a car accident as a passenger, you are able to sue all parties responsible to obtain compensation for your injuries.
Which Driver Can a Passenger Sue After an Accident?
If you are a passenger hurt in an auto accident, you can sue whichever driver was negligent and caused the accident. This is true whether that’s the driver of the other car or the one you were riding in. Often both drivers share the blame for the accident–in that case you can sue both drivers for your damages.
Joint and Several Liability
The benefit of having multiple drivers to sue after a car accident is that there are more options to pursue for compensation. For example, if your damages exceed the limits of one driver’s insurance policy, you can go to the other driver’s insurance company to make up the difference.
Alternatively, you may discover that one driver is uninsured and “judgment proof” (meaning they have little or no assets). In this case, you can still pursue the other at-fault driver and collect from their insurance policy.
This is based on a concept called “joint and several liability.” Simply put, if you et a judgment against multiple parties in a lawsuit, you can enforce the full judgment amount against any and all of the parties. Even if one party is found to be only 50% at fault, you can enforce 100% of the judgment against them. It is up to them to seek contribution from the other person.
Note, however, that in California the above only applies to economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Compensation for pain and suffering or emotional distress is divided based on the fault of each respective party.
What Factors Might Affect a Passenger’s Personal Injury Case?
A court will almost never find a passenger at fault in a car accident. However, a passenger’s actions or inactions can reduce the amount of compensation available for their injuries.
Generally speaking, when an accident victim is found to be partly at fault for their own injuries, their compensation can be reduced. For example, if you failed to obey California’s mandatory seat belt law, you may be partly responsible for the extent of your injuries in a crash, even though you were only a passenger. Therefore, the final settlement or judgment amount may be reduced.
Additionally, if you knowingly get in the passenger seat with a drunk driver, the amount of money you ultimately receive could be reduced. A passenger’s failure to take proper precautions is, however, rarely a complete bar to recovery.
What If There Are Multiple Injured Passengers in an Accident?
If multiple passengers are injured in a car accident, each one has the right to sue the negligent driver for compensation. Multiple injured passengers can complicate matters, however, when there is a limited pool of funds to recover from.
What happens if there’s an underinsured or uninsured driver? The injured passengers may end up fighting amongst each other over what assets or insurance money may be available.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help After an Accident?
If you were injured as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a collision, you likely have a stronger case than if you were a driver. However, you still need an attorney with expertise in recovering compensation for injured passengers. An experienced car crash attorney will be able to identify who to sue and will be able to act quickly if limited funds are available for recovery.
A lawyer will also deal with insurance companies on your behalf. They can fight to make sure you receive a favorable settlement. This gives you time to focus on your recovery. If a trial is necessary, your attorney will be ready to advocate on your behalf.