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Can I Claim Whiplash as a Passenger?

Can I Claim Whiplash as a Passenger

Passengers injured in vehicle accidents may be able to seek compensation for their injuries, including whiplash. Depending on the situation, reaching a settlement or a jury verdict may be easier because you weren’t driving one of the vehicles.

MJB Law Group’s Tustin car accident lawyers provide our car accident clients with effective, empathetic, and compassionate legal representation. Together, we can get the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a FREE consultation and case evaluation so we can discuss your options. Call us today at (949) 266-0880 or complete our confidential contact form.

How Do Car Accident Claims Work?

To have a successful insurance claim or lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries caused in a vehicle accident, you, the injured party (the plaintiff), must establish certain factual and legal elements. Unless there’s evidence someone intentionally injured you, your case would be based on the negligence legal theory. Its elements include:

  • Duty of care: Evidence must show a relationship between you and the at-fault driver (the defendant) that gives rise to the legal obligation of complying with a duty of care (the duty of ordinary care or skill). This could be because you were riding in the same vehicle or using the same roadway. The duty of care is to drive reasonably safely in a reasonably safe vehicle
  • Breach of duty: It must be demonstrated the at-fault driver breached their duty of care due to negligent or reckless behavior, such as speeding, running a red light, driving under the influence, and or using a vehicle with defective brakes or tires
  • Causation: There’s a direct link between the at-fault driver’s breach of duty, the accident, and your injuries. The violation of duty is the legal (or proximate) and factual cause of the harm you suffer. This can be done through evidence and expert testimony on how the accident happened, who’s to blame, and how it’s linked to your injuries
  • Damages: You need to provide evidence of your damages, which is the monetary value of the harm you suffer. This can be past and future medical bills and lost wages, pain, suffering, mental anguish, and out-of-pocket expenses

You must file a lawsuit no later than two years from the date of the injury. You shouldn’t wait nearly that long to contact us to discuss your situation. We must investigate the accident and determine who’s at fault and why. That takes time.

How Would Being a Passenger Affect My Claim?

Being a passenger can be an issue in several ways.

  • Who Would Be a Defendant?

In cases like these, consulting with a car accident attorney becomes crucial. Many accidents are caused by multiple drivers making mistakes. If two drivers were involved and you were one of them, you could only bring legal action against the other driver. You can’t sue yourself.

As a passenger, if both drivers caused the accident, insurance claims and lawsuits might be brought against both. Generally, the more defendants there are, the greater the chances you’ll be fairly compensated for your injuries. 

The fact you’re suing someone may put you in a difficult spot if they’re a friend or family member. If you’re related to the driver and living in the same household, your claim may be excluded from the driver’s insurance policy coverage. 

If that’s not the case, you need your medical bills paid, and you’re not working, you’ll need the financial help that can come with a settlement or verdict. This need not be personal, and as long as their insurance covers your claim and the amount is within its limits, the driver won’t be out any money.

  • Could an Insurance Company Blame Me for My Injuries?

Another issue is California’s comparative fault approach to injury lawsuits. This reduces your recovery by your share of the accident’s blame. If you have $100,000 in damages and a jury decides your mistakes made up 25% of the accident’s causes, that amount would be reduced by 25%, so you would recover $75,000. 

Depending on the facts, an insurance company could raise this with a passenger. It would be an issue if you were actively distracting or physically interfering with the driver. California law requires that all vehicle occupants be restrained. If you’re not using your seatbelt, the insurance company may argue it should only compensate you for injuries you would’ve received if you were belted in.

Comedian Tracy Morgan was a passenger in a vehicle when he was severely injured after it was rear-ended by a semi-truck in 2014. He filed legal action against the truck’s owner, who was also the driver’s employer (Walmart), according to CBS News. In response, the company claimed Morgan’s failure to use his seat belt was a partial, if not the total, cause of his injuries. The case was settled before this issue could be decided in court.

Contact Our Tustin Car Accident Lawyers

Are you injured because of a Tustin car accident? If so, the MJB Law Group is here to help. Our car accident attorneys have the resources and experience to go up against large insurance carriers – and win! Contact us today for a FREE case evaluation and consultation to discuss your legal options and how we can help. Fill out our confidential contact form or call (949) 266-0880 today.

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