How to File a Car Accident Claim as a Passenger

As a passenger with injuries, you may file a car accident claim through the driver’s insurance or a third party’s insurer. You can also sue anyone whose negligence contributed to the accident.

A car accident lawyer will explain the steps to take after the accident. They will provide advice specific to your unique circumstances. If you elect, a lawyer can even pursue the compensation you deserve for injuries and other damages.

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How You File a Car Accident Claim Depends on Several Factors

No single blueprint will lay out how a passenger in a car accident should file a claim. There are merely too many differences between each action to give catch-all advice.

Some of the factors that will determine how you pursue compensation as an injured passenger are:

Insurance Rules in the State Where the Car Accident Happened

Each state handles car accident insurance claims differently. To understand your options for seeking compensation, you must understand the insurance rules in the state where the accident happened.

States fall into one of two primary categories:

How to File a Car Accident Claim as a Passenger

  • No-fault auto insurance states: In no-fault auto insurance states (like Florida), every motorist is entitled to compensation from their own insurer, even if they cause the accident. An injured passenger in a no-fault state may file a claim with the insurer for the driver whose vehicle they were riding in, even if another motorist caused the collision.
  • Fault-based auto insurance states: In fault-based states (like Washington), the insurer for the at-fault motorist generally must cover a passenger’s medical bills and other covered losses.

There are variations of each of these categories. Your lawyer will explain all relevant insurance rules in your state, as these rules may affect how you file a car accident claim.

The Insurance Status of All Drivers Involved in Your Accident

Every motorist chooses their insurance coverage, and some motorists choose (illegally) to drive without insurance. The details of liable parties’ insurance policies will affect how a passenger pursues compensation.

For example, assume that:

  • A liable motorist has no insurance: More than 12 percent of American motorists drive without insurance at any given time. If an uninsured motorist caused your accident and other insurance options do not cover your losses, you may sue the uninsured motorist.
  • A liable motorist purchased more than the minimum insurance: If an at-fault motorist purchased insurance beyond the state’s mandated coverage limits, this can be positive for all parties. You may collect all the compensation you need through insurance, so you will not have to file a lawsuit.

These are just two examples of how insurance-specific factors can influence your approach to seeking compensation.

The Amount of Insurance Coverage You’re Entitled To

Whether you file a lawsuit will boil down to a few straightforward questions:

  1. What is the total cost of your accident-related losses?
  2. Will insurance coverage pay for the cost of your accident-related losses?

If the amount of insurance coverage you receive covers your accident-related losses, you may not have to file a lawsuit. Therefore, the total value of your insurance coverage will determine your post-accident legal strategy.

The Nature and Severity of Your Injuries

Injuries are a key focus when calculating the cost of a car accident. The more significant your injuries are, the more expensive your damages.

Therefore, as you determine how to seek compensation as the passenger in a car accident, you must consider:

  • The specific injuries you suffered
  • The nature and severity of your injury symptoms
  • Whether any injuries are disabling
  • How the healing process goes (and how long it takes)
  • The severity of pain resulting from your injuries
  • The current and future cost of treating your injuries

Your lawyer will work with medical professionals to evaluate your injuries and care needs.

The Total Cost of Your Accident-Related Damages

Your lawyer will answer one critical question: How much does my client’s accident-related damages cost?

Your lawyer will:

  1. Calculate the cost of both economic and non-economic losses from your accident
  2. Project the cost of any future losses you’re going to experience (like the cost of rehabilitation)
  3. Determine the most appropriate way to seek compensation based on the cost of your accident-related losses

The total cost of your losses will be vital to your lawyer’s legal strategy. If the best offer from a liable insurer does not cover your total losses, your attorney may proceed with a lawsuit.

Pursuing a Lawsuit Is the Right Choice for Many Injured Passengers

Many passengers injured during car accidents ultimately resort to lawsuits.

Your case may go to court because of:

  • Lack of insurance policies covering your damages
  • Coverage limits too low to cover your damages
  • Insurance companies refusing to offer a fair settlement

Your lawyer may initially file an insurance claim on your behalf and will negotiate tirelessly to secure the best possible settlement offer. However, if it becomes apparent that an insurance settlement will not provide the money you deserve, your lawyer may encourage you to pursue a lawsuit.

A lawyer’s ability to file and complete a lawsuit is one of their greatest benefits to you. An insurer who knows a lawyer will take a case to court may choose to settle, knowing that a trial can lead to an unfavorable outcome for the insurer.

However You Seek a Financial Recovery, a Lawyer Can Lead the Fight

Whether your case ends with an insurance settlement or proceeds to court, a lawyer can be a priceless asset to you.

Passengers hire a car accident lawyer because of:

  • Time constraints: Those involved in car accidents often have little time to spare. You may not have the time or capacity to pay enough attention to your claim or lawsuit, but a lawyer can. While you focus on recovering and overseeing your personal and professional obligations, your lawyer will work toward your financial recovery.
  • Physical and mental limitations: Injuries from your accident—including mental health struggles—may prevent you from handling your claim effectively. Your health, claim, or both may suffer if you’re trying to handle the process while injured.
  • Unfamiliarity with insurance claims or lawsuits: The typical car accident victim does not understand the demands of insurance claims and lawsuits. Rather than diving straight into the chase for compensation, you may have to learn about the process. A lawyer, on the other hand, will proceed without hesitation.
  • A lawyer’s substantial experience and training: Lawyers spend many of their working hours negotiating with insurers and trying court cases. Don’t underestimate the benefit of a lawyer’s relevant experience. A car accident lawyer can anticipate the challenges ahead and respond quickly to the demands of your claim or lawsuit.
  • A law firm’s personnel: When you hire a car accident lawyer, you get the support of an entire firm. Your lawyer will come with paralegals, investigators, and possibly third-party experts. This legal team will be better positioned to present a stronger case than you.
  • A law firm’s financial support: Car accident law firms provide substantial financial support for their clients’ cases. A law firm will handle your entire case without presenting a bill to you. Instead, your firm will only receive a fee if they secure a financial recovery for you.

Car accident victims experience more than enough stress when involved in a collision. Claims and lawsuits can be immensely stressful and may be more than you can take on right now. Your health and case for compensation may benefit from your decision to hire a lawyer.

What Car Accident Lawyers Can Do For Injured Passengers

Before hiring a lawyer, know what to expect from them. Your attorney will:

Oversee Paperwork, Communications, and Every Other Detail of Your Case

Car accident lawyers take complete command over their client’s fight for financial recovery.

Therefore, expect your lawyer to:

  • Draft and file your claim or lawsuit
  • Proofread all paperwork to ensure accuracy and completion, reducing the likelihood that insurers will deny your claim(s)
  • Review and respond to all correspondence from insurers
  • Interact directly with insurers, which will prevent them from violating your rights

Your physical recovery should come first right now. With a lawyer leading your case, you won’t have to worry about a single detail of your claim or lawsuit.

Document Damages from Your Car Accident

You are seeking compensation because your accident has caused you harm, and your lawyer will pursue compensation reflecting that harm.

An attorney may document your accident-related damages using:

  • Images of injuries
  • Medical records
  • Medical bills
  • Testimony from mental health experts
  • Testimony from doctors
  • Invoices for property expenses

Your lawyer will present this documentation as they negotiate with liable insurers. If your case goes to court, your lawyer will present the documentation to the judge and jury.

Establish Fault (and Financial Liability) for Your Car Accident

Fault is a key consideration when a passenger suffers injuries. Your lawyer will determine who owes you compensation.

As your lawyer investigates your car accident, they will obtain witness accounts, video footage, and other evidence indicating fault.

Negotiate a Settlement with Insurers

An insurer is likely responsible for your accident-related damages.

Your lawyer will negotiate with liable insurers, overcoming specific challenges like:

Insurance companies sometimes refuse to pay claimants fairly, which is the most financially beneficial decision for the corporation. However, your lawyer will hold insurers to the policies they’ve issued—policies that may entitle you to compensation.

File a Lawsuit and Go to Trial (If Necessary)

Most car accident cases settle, and yours may too. However, a law firm must always be willing to proceed to trial on their client’s behalf. If a law firm will not take your case to trial, it may not negotiate from a position of strength.

Many injury firms have proven their willingness to go to trial. As you research attorneys who may lead your car accident case, review their case results and ask directly: Will you take my case to trial if it is the right decision for me?

Recoverable Damages You May Receive Compensation For

The cost of each car accident victim’s damages can vary drastically. The severity of your injuries will be one of several factors determining your claim’s value.

Your lawyer will complete a personalized evaluation of your accident-related losses and may seek compensation for:

  • Medical expenses: If you receive emergency care, hospital services, medication, or other medical services after your accident, your attorney will total your medical expenses. You should be free to receive all the care you need because you’re confident a lawyer will obtain coverage for that care.
  • Pain and suffering: Anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other forms of pain and suffering may entitle you to compensation.
  • Lost income and other professional damages: If your car accident leads to lost income, missed bonuses, diminished earning power, or any other professional harm, your lawyer will seek fair compensation for these damages.
  • Property expenses: If your personal property suffered damage during the car accident, your lawyer will include those property expenses in your case.

An attorney will speak with you, medical professionals, and other experts to diagnose and value your damages.

When looking for a lawyer, find a team that:

  • Has significant case results
  • Has positive reviews from former clients
  • Offers a contingency fee structure
  • Shows respect and personal care during your free consultation

Choosing the right lawyer can lead to victory in your case.

Hire an Attorney as Soon as Possible Today

Tatiana Boohoff - Car Accident Lawyer in Tampa
Tatiana Boohoff, Tampa Car Accident Attorney

There is no immediate or out-of-pocket cost for you to hire a lawyer. Therefore, there is no reason to wait any longer to retain an attorney. Your lawyer may have a limited time to file your case and gather evidence, and time is of the essence in your case. Act immediately to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney near you and discuss possible representation of your car accident claim.

September 14, 2023
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