Settlements for Passengers in Car Accidents

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Settlements for Passengers in Car Accidents

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

As a passenger, you have the same rights as the driver of a vehicle to be compensated for your injuries following an accident.

It is crucial first to identify who is at fault for the accident. Even though you may not have played a role, you still deserve relief for your medical bills and missed time from work.

The car accident attorneys at Malman Law would like to discuss the factors that go into receiving a settlement offer as a passenger in a car accident.

How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?

In 2020, 18,525 passengers were injured in motor vehicle crashes in Illinois. These people had no idea what risk they faced when they went along for the ride.

The insurance company must determine who was at fault for the accident before any type of settlement can be reached. In car accidents, an accident is typically caused by negligence.

Negligence is the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person who have exercised in a similar situation. A person who displays negligence behind the wheel puts other road users in harm’s way.

To establish negligence, the following elements must be present:

  • Duty: the driver had a duty to behave with care while driving
  • Breach: the driver did not operate his or her vehicle with care
  • Causation: due to the driver’s lack of care, he or she caused others’ injuries
  • Damages: victims of the car accident have suffered measurable losses, including lost wages and medical expenses

Illinois Insurance Coverage

Illinois is an “at-fault” or tort state. This means that whichever driver causes an accident is responsible for paying out of their insurance for any losses or injuries.

If you share no responsibility for an accident, your insurance will pay nothing. If both drivers share responsibility for the accident, then you may be able to file a claim with both insurance companies.

Illinois law requires that all drivers have the following minimum liability coverage:

  • $25,000 of bodily injury or death of one person;
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death of more than one person; and
  • $20,000 of damage to another person’s property

This is the minimum amount of car insurance that every Illinois driver must carry. However, these limits rarely cover drivers and passengers who suffer severe injuries. It is always best to carry more insurance to cover injuries and vehicle damage in serious accidents.

In Illinois, you do have the option of buying personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This optional coverage will pay for your medical bills and lost earnings, no matter which driver is to blame.

What are Your Rights as a Passenger in a Vehicle Accident?

The average compensation for injured car accident victims is about $29,700. Unfortunately, insurance companies are often unwilling to compensate injured passengers the same amount as injured drivers.

As a passenger, you are rarely at fault in an accident since you are not operating the vehicle. You can make a passenger injury claim to be compensated for your injuries.

If the other driver is to blame for the crash, you can bring a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance carrier.

When you are related to the driver of the vehicle you rode in, you may already have coverage under the driver’s insurance policy. If your family member is driving and causes an accident, you may forfeit your right to pursue further compensation.

This caveat is not usually the case with extended family. It is important to read the fine print in every insurance policy.

Do Passengers Have a Greater Risk of Injury?

In some accidents, passengers have a greater risk of getting injured. The front passenger is vulnerable if the vehicle suffers a side impact collision, like being T-boned.

Recent research points to rear passengers being in the greatest danger. There is a lack of safety protections for rear passengers instead of those sitting up front.

Rear seats are not equipped with front airbags, meaning that rear passengers may hit their heads on other parts of the car interior during a crash. Rear seat belts do not have force-limiters, meaning that back seat riders have a greater risk of chest injuries.

If you can avoid sitting in the backseat, you should. However, if the car is crowded and you have no other options, it is best to sit in the middle seat in the back. If you are in a rollover, the passenger in the middle seat has less force exerted upon them than those sitting in window seats.

Types of Compensatory Damages

A passenger may be able to receive compensation for their losses, which is known as damages. Damages aim to make the injured party “whole” again.

Damages in a car accident come in many forms. Some damages are easily quantifiable and are known as special damages.

Special damages include:

  • Lost wages;
  • Lost earning potential;
  • Medical bills;
  • Rehabilitative therapy; and
  • Cost to repair the vehicle.

Other damages do not have a specific monetary value but affect a person’s quality of life. This category of damages is known as general damages.

General damages include:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Loss of consortium;
  • Mental suffering; and
  • Disfigurement.

Insurance Settlement Offers

Usually, the first offer made by an insurance company is low and will not cover all your expenses. During the process of negotiating the best settlement, you can accept or reject an insurance company’s offer, or you can make a counteroffer.

If you accept the insurance company’s offer, you will sign a waiver prohibiting you from collecting further compensation for your claim.

There are a few situations in which you may want to consider filing a lawsuit:

  • If the insurance company denied your claim
  • If negotiations with the insurance company have stalled
  • If the insurance company repeatedly offers you unfair settlement offers
  • If your losses exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits

The best decision you can make is to discuss your case with a car accident attorney. A car accident attorney can help you negotiate a settlement that covers your needs and take your case to trial if necessary.

A Chicago Car Accident Attorney Going the Extra Mile

A car accident can shake your sense of security. Chances are that if you were a passenger in a car crash, you had no control over the accident. You deserve an award that will put you on the road to recovery. Contact Malman Law today to schedule your free and confidential consultation.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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