I was injured as a passenger. What are my rights?
As a passenger in a car who was injured in a car crash, you have the right to collect compensation for your injuries. For instance, it may be possible to obtain a financial award to pay for your medical expenses or to make up for lost wages or future earnings. How can you learn more about your rights and protect them throughout the legal process?
Consult With an Attorney Right Away
The first step to learning about your rights is to talk with someone who is familiar with personal injury law. He or she may be able to review your case and tell you more about how you can or should proceed. As long as you were wearing a seat belt and otherwise following the law at the time of the crash, you are generally not responsible for the actions of the driver of the car that you were riding in or the actions of any other driver.
Tell Other Parties About Your Intent to Sue
One of the best ways to preserve your legal rights is to tell other parties of your intent to sue. While you don’t actually have to move forward with the lawsuit, it makes it much easier to do so. It also increases the odds that other parties in the case will work harder to settle it out of court. A settlement may be ideal because its terms may not be made public, which means responsible parties don’t have to answer questions about it or formally accept responsibility.
Beware of Statutes of Limitation
You generally have two years after the date of the crash to file a lawsuit. Your attorney should tell you more about the specific statutes that apply in your case, and it may be necessary to file in less than two years if the defendant is a government agency. Minors who are injured in a car crash may have until age 20 to take legal action no matter when the crash that caused injuries took place. After age 20, he or she may have two years to take the person or entity responsible for the accident to court.
What If You Knew Another Driver Was Drunk or Impaired?
In court, an argument may be made that you knew that the driver of the vehicle that you were in had been drinking or was otherwise impaired. Typically, this does not absolve the driver of his or her responsibility to operate the vehicle in a responsible manner. It also does not absolve the driver of his or her responsibility to care for others in a vehicle that he or she possessed.
What If It Was Your Vehicle Involved in the Wreck?
You may be held responsible if you allowed an impaired person to drive a vehicle that you owned. This is generally true whether or not you may have also been impaired at the time of the crash. If you were in a car with a minor child who was not yet a fully licensed driver, it may be difficult or impractical to seek damages from that child. It may also be your fault for letting an inexperienced driver operate a vehicle depending on road or other conditions.
What Specific Types of Compensation Could I Be Entitled To?
There are many different types of compensation that you may be entitled to such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. In other words, if you had nightmares about the accident or didn’t want to ride in a car or take the bus to work, you could be compensated for that.
It may also be possible to win compensation for any quality of life issues that you have faced since the crash. For instance, if you can’t play with your kids, take your dog for a walk or be intimate with your spouse, that could factor into how much you win in a settlement or jury award.
Miscellaneous items such as attorney fees and court costs may be part of a settlement. You may also be awarded interest on top of any actual lost wages you incur because of your injuries. This may be in addition to any other relief that a judge or jury deems reasonable.
If you have been injured in a car crash while you were a passenger, you should seek legal help immediately. You may be entitled to a cash settlement or a jury award. This may make it easier to focus less on your finances and more on getting your life back in order.