News accounts of serious multi-car accidents in Macon, Georgia, and surrounding areas usually center their reports on the car drivers and their injuries. Passengers in these accidents can also receive significant injuries. Too often, they are not the focus of attention and may not realize they have the same rights as drivers.
Passengers, just like drivers, can receive compensation to offset their financial losses by recovering damages from the person(s) who caused the accident. An injured passenger can suffer the loss of employment, incur large medical bills, endure rehabilitation or require months of specialized care.
Passenger accident experiences
There are several possible combinations when accidents occur. One or more drivers may be at fault, and some or all of the people in the vehicles may be injured. The following examples show three different accidents:
- Example #1: Driver A and his passenger were entering an intersection when Driver B ran the red light. Both cars were badly damaged. The two drivers and Driver A's passenger were severely injured. Police determined Driver B was at fault.
- Example #2: Driver A and his passenger were entering an intersection. Driver A ran the red light and hit Driver B's car. Everyone sustained injuries. The police assigned fault to Driver A.
- Example #3: Driver A and his passenger drove away from a bar, followed by their friend, Driver B. Both drivers were traveling at high speed. At an intersection, Driver A suddenly noticed the red light and slammed on his brakes. Driver B rear-ended Driver A's car. The drivers and passenger were severely injured. Police assigned equal fault to both Driver A and Driver B for driving while intoxicated and for speeding.
Passenger insurance claim procedures
In the first example, the passenger can file a claim against Driver B; in the second example, he can file a claim against Driver A. But what about the third claim, where the drivers are equally at fault? If Driver A had not been drinking, the passenger could have filed claims against both drivers' insurance companies. Unfortunately, the passenger in the third example is partially at fault for his own injuries because he knowingly rode in a Driver A's car when he knew Driver A was drunk. The passenger will receive no compensation if his injuries are more than 49 percent due to his negligence in riding with an intoxicated driver. Under Georgia's modified comparative negligence law, the court will determine the passenger's amount of responsibility for negligence. Assuming 20 percent responsibility, the passenger's compensation will be 20 percent less.
It is important for an injured passenger to understand his rights. Insurance companies often do not act in the passenger's best interest in insurance claims; they count on the fact that a passenger does not have the necessary legal knowledge or experience to fight the insurance industry. If the passenger makes the right decisions early on, he has a better chance for an increase in the amount of recovery for his injuries.