Image of a group of friends in a car

Riding in the passenger seat isn’t just about enjoying the view or controlling the playlist. When another person is behind the wheel, it can mean potential risks for you as a passenger. This is due to your positioning in the vehicle, lack of control over driving decisions, and the car’s structural vulnerabilities.

If another person’s driving error results in an accident and injury to you, knowing your rights is crucial. Being informed and working with a skilled South Carolina car accident lawyer can help you get compensation and support your recovery journey.

What the Statistics Show Regarding Passenger Safety

Recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) highlight the risks to passengers in vehicles. In 2021, there was an overall increase in deaths of drivers and passengers by 9.6%.

The IIHS reports that in 2021, there were 20,261 driver fatalities in the U.S. Passengers saw fewer deaths, with 5,948. Most of these injuries, around 83%, happened in the front passenger seat.

Many fatalities were passengers under 20 years old in the second and third-row passenger seats.

Factors Contributing to Passenger Injuries

Multiple factors contribute to passenger injuries in vehicle crashes. These include seating arrangements, restraints used, and structural elements like airbags in the car.

  • Seating position and safety: The location of passengers within the vehicle plays a role in safety. Front-seat passengers are more vulnerable to head-on collisions, while rear-seat occupants are better protected. Advancements in rear-seat safety, such as side curtain airbags, bolster protection for back-seat passengers.
  • Unrestrained passengers: Failing to wear seatbelts is a primary cause of severe passenger injuries, especially in pickup trucks. The NHTSA reported that in 2021, 64% of passengers killed in pickup truck accidents were not wearing seatbelts, while 60% of pickup truck drivers who died weren’t buckled.
  • Airbags and their effect: Airbags, while designed to protect occupants, can pose risks if used incorrectly. Passengers sitting too close to an airbag or in an improper position may suffer airbag-related injuries, such as friction burns or fractures. Proper seating positions and safe airbag deployment are vital for passenger safety.
  • Driver age and number of passengers: According to a 2015 study, driver age and number of passengers can affect the safety of all car occupants. For younger and less experienced drivers, the crash risk increases with just one passenger and nearly doubles with two or more passengers.

Compensation for Injured Passengers

Understanding your rights and potential compensation options is crucial if you’re an injured passenger. Compensation can cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other related damages stemming from the accident.

Our car accident attorneys at Joye Law Firm can help you pursue a settlement from the following possible sources:

  • The driver’s insurance. If you believe the driver of the vehicle you were riding in was at fault—perhaps due to distractions or other mistakes—you can file a claim with their insurance. Their liability insurance can cover damages up to the policy limits.
  • Another driver’s insurance. When another driver on the road is responsible for your injuries, you can pursue a claim against their insurance. To receive compensation, your attorney can help you prove their negligent actions, like ignoring traffic rules or driving under the influence.
  • A personal injury lawsuit. If insurance offers fall short or there’s a disagreement about the facts of the accident, you can pursue legal action. Initiating a lawsuit can help you advocate for the full extent of compensation you believe you’re entitled to from the negligent party’s insurer or their personal assets.
  • PIP or medical payments insurance. If you carry Personal Injury Protection or Medical Payments coverage on your own auto insurance policy, you could seek coverage if the responsible driver’s insurance doesn’t pay for your injuries. These coverages are designed to address medical costs, often without considering who caused the accident.
  • Your uninsured motorist insurance. In cases where the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you can rely on your own uninsured (UM)/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). UM coverage is required in South Carolina and safeguards against financial losses when the responsible party lacks sufficient insurance.

Protect Your Rights as a Passenger in a Car Accident

Struggling to determine your next steps as an injured passenger? Our car accident attorneys at Joye Law Firm can help you secure compensation from all possible sources.

Our dedicated team is aware of the challenges injured passengers face and can help you gather the necessary evidence to file a claim and help you get what you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, go over your rights, and discuss the next steps for your case.

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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