unexpected emergency while driving

When drivers are injured in crashes, they can get compensation through the auto insurance policies of the at-fault drivers.  But when passengers are injured in accidents, they may be wondering if they can get compensation and how to get it, especially if they don’t drive and thus don’t have auto insurance. Thankfully, passengers in crashes are also usually eligible for compensation, even when the at-fault drivers are the drivers of the vehicles they were riding in.

Who Pays for Medical Expenses Resulting from a Car Crash?

South Carolina is a “fault” state, which means that whoever is determined to be at fault for the crash is responsible for the resulting medical bills of anyone injured in the crash. That means the driver in the other vehicle, passengers in both vehicles, and/or any pedestrians who were struck and injured can file compensation claims against the negligent driver who injured them.

Can Passengers Be Considered at Fault for Crashes?

Typically passengers are not considered at fault for crashes, but in some cases, passengers may be considered partially at fault. For example, if they distracted the driver of their vehicle to the point that they lost control and crashed, the passenger could share liability for the accident. However, this does not mean passengers are excluded from getting compensation, although the amount they can get in compensation may be reduced if they were determined to have done something that contributed to the crash.

What If It’s Taking Too Long to Determine Who’s at Fault?

Determining liability can drag on after a crash when one or both drivers deny liability. In those cases, the best option for the passenger is usually to use their own health insurance to cover their medical expenses. Once liability is determined, the at-fault driver or drivers’ auto insurance would reimburse for bills already paid through a medical lien.

Do Passengers Need to Hire a Lawyer, or Can They Use The Same Lawyer as the Driver of the Vehicle They Were In?

Unfortunately, passengers in vehicles cannot share the same lawyer or lawsuit as the driver in the vehicle they were riding in, even when both are injured in the same crash. That’s because South Carolina law allows both drivers in a collision to share fault. For example, imagine a scenario where a driver is browsing social media on their phone at a red light. The light turns green, but the driver doesn’t notice, and is rear-ended by another driver approaching from behind. In this case, both drivers could be considered partially at fault for the collision.

Because the driver of the vehicle you were riding in may also be partially liable for your injuries, it would be a conflict of interest for you to be represented by the same lawyer or in the same lawsuit, since you may need to seek compensation from the driver of the vehicle you were riding in. You should hire separate lawyers, even if the driver was your immediate family member or spouse.

Don’t Hesitate to File a Claim

Many passengers are reluctant to file claims against friends or family members when they are responsible for their injuries. However, we want you to know that doing so is a smart decision, and not one you should be ashamed of making.

You need and deserve compensation for injuries you suffered but didn’t cause, and in the vast majority of auto accident claims, your friend or loved one will not be personally responsible for paying those bills out of their own pocket. Your compensation will be paid for by their auto insurance policy instead. That’s what it is for, and you shouldn’t worry about using it.

We Help Passengers Injured in Auto Wrecks

At Joye Law Firm, we’ve represented many injured victims of auto accidents. While drivers know they are putting themselves at risk every time they get behind the wheel of a vehicle, they are doing the same for their passengers, and innocent passengers don’t deserve to pay for a driver’s recklessness or distraction.

Our South Carolina injury lawyers have dedicated their lives to helping people who have been injured through no fault of their own, and now we want to help you. Contact us today for a free consultation if you’ve been injured in a crash while riding in someone else’s vehicle.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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