You were injured in a car accident as a passenger. What are your legal rights? In Florida, you have the same legal rights as an injured driver. This means you have the right to “no fault” personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, and it means you have the right to additional compensation if you suffered a significant or permanent injury due to someone else’s negligence.
Passenger injuries in car accidents are extremely common. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), there were 140,260 injury-involved crashes statewide in 2020. However, these accidents resulted in 212,531 injuries. We routinely hear from passengers who need help recovering their losses, and you can rest assured that you are not alone in having questions about your legal rights.
4 Options for Recovering Compensation as an Injured Passenger in Florida
Generally speaking, injured passengers in Florida have four main options for recovering their accident-related losses. Depending on the circumstances involved in a car accident, it may be possible to pursue one, two, three, or all four types of claims. As an injured passenger, your options for recovering just compensation may include:
1. Seeking Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage
If you have auto insurance, you have PIP coverage. Personal injury protection is mandatory in Florida, and all policies must include a minimum of $10,000 in coverage.
Even though you were a passenger, you can still file a claim under your PIP policy. As we mentioned above, this is “no fault” coverage (it is also generally tax-free). As a result, you can file a claim without proof of fault, and your insurance company should cover your medical bills, lost wages, and certain other out-of-pocket expenses up to your policy limit (less your deductible).
If you don’t have PIP because you don’t own a motor vehicle, you may first seek coverage under a resident relative’s PIP policy. If you don’t have a resident relative who has PIP, then you can seek coverage under your driver’s policy.
2. Filing a Claim Under Your Driver’s Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) Insurance Policy
If you suffered “significant” or “permanent” injuries in the crash, you can seek additional compensation outside of PIP. However, unlike securing PIP coverage, recovering this additional compensation requires proof of fault.
If your driver was at fault in the accident and he or she has bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance, you can file a claim under his or her BIL policy. This type of situation is exactly what this insurance is for—and your friend, co-worker, or loved one will most likely want you to take advantage of the coverage he or she has available. This is strictly an insurance claim—you are not “suing” your acquaintance or family member. Your lawyer will deal with your driver’s insurance company directly, and your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to make sure you receive the financial compensation you deserve.
3. Filing a Claim Under Another Driver’s Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) Insurance Policy
If another driver was at fault in the accident, then you may be able to file a claim under that driver’s BIL policy. Again, filing a BIL claim requires proof of fault, and this means that you will need to hire a lawyer to conduct an investigation right away.
There are several forms of driver negligence that can support fault-based auto insurance claims. When investigating your accident, your lawyer will examine all possible causes, and your lawyer will collect all available evidence to prove your claim for damages.
4. Pursuing a “Third Party” Claim for Liability
In addition to driver negligence, there are many other factors that can cause (or contribute to causing) an accident that results in passenger injuries. Beyond looking for evidence of driver negligence, your lawyer will also look for evidence of issues such as:
- Vehicle defects
- Road defects
- Faulty maintenance or repair work
- Inadequate employee screening or supervision (if one of the drivers was working at the time of the crash)
If any of these types of issues played a role in your car accident, you may have a “third party” claim for liability. This is a claim outside of auto insurance against a company (or government entity) that is legally responsible for your crash. Pursuing a third party claim is not easy, but it can be essential for recovering full compensation in many cases.
Common Challenges Passengers Face When Seeking Just Compensation for Accident-Related Injuries
Even though injured passengers have clear legal rights under Florida law, recovering just compensation can still prove challenging. Here are some examples of challenges you may need to overcome:
- Accusations that You are Responsible for Your Own Injuries – In order to avoid liability, the insurance companies may accuse you of being responsible for your own injuries. For example, they may claim that you distracted your driver, or that you can’t prove you were wearing your seatbelt at the time of the collision. These are common insurance defense tactics, and our South Florida car accident lawyers can deal with these tactics on your behalf.
- Insurance Companies Pointing the Finger at One Another – Even if the insurance companies don’t blame you for your own injuries, they may point the finger at one another. If both drivers’ insurance companies try to deny liability, you will need to be able to prove how much each company is liable to pay.
- Claims of Pre-Existing or Post-Accident Injuries – When seeking compensation for a car accident, it is extremely important to see a doctor as soon after the accident as possible. If you don’t have medical records that prove your injuries are accident-related, the insurance companies may try to argue that you have a pre-existing injury or that you suffered your injuries after the crash.
- Proving the Financial and Non–Financial Costs of the Accident – One of the biggest challenges passengers (and drivers) face after getting injured in a car accident is proving the costs of their injuries. If you have a claim outside of PIP, you are entitled to compensation for your past, present, and future financial and non-financial losses. The insurance companies won’t calculate these losses for you—in fact, they will try to minimize your financial recovery. To avoid settling for less than you deserve, you will need an experienced attorney on your side.
Schedule a Free Consultation at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers
The team at Brian Guralnick Injury Lawyers Demand More® and so should you. If you have been injured in a Palm Beach County accident, I encourage you to contact me, Brian D. Guralnick, personally to discuss your legal rights. To learn how the injury team at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers can help you Demand More® for your injuries, call (561) 983-4395 now or contact us online. Isn’t it time that you Demand More®?
You should not take any information in this blog as legal advice in any situation. If you need expertise for a specific issue of yours, contact a qualified Personal Injury attorney.