Who Is Liable for a Passenger’s Injuries in a Car Accident in California?
In California, whoever is determined to be at fault for causing a car accident is legally liable for the damages sustained by any passengers in the vehicles. Insurers typically foot the bill up to policy limits, leading policyholders to cover the rest. Responsibility for an accident can be shared by multiple parties. Occasionally, the scope of liability may expand beyond the vehicle drivers to include employers, auto manufacturers, and maintenance personnel.
Scenario 1: The At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Pays for the Passenger’s Injuries
Most states, including California, follow tort-based insurance law. Insurance adjusters will investigate the crash, and a police report can help with determining liability. Insurance companies have 15 days to acknowledge the claim, 40 days to approve or deny the claim, and 30 days to make payment after a settlement offer is negotiated.
If the insurance companies determine the other driver was solely at fault, the other driver’s insurance company will have to pay to the policy limits. The insurers may decide you were both partially at fault and split the cost of passenger injuries based on the ascribed percentage of responsibility.
If the insurance companies determine you are solely at-fault for causing the accident, your insurance company will be liable for paying 100% of passenger injuries up to the policy limit. California law requires motorists to be insured for $15,000 for injury to another person, $30,000 for total bodily injuries, and $5,000 for property damage. Motorists may elect to buy additional coverage or carry uninsured motorist coverage to increase the payouts.
Scenario 2: A Driver Personally Pays for Passenger Injuries.
If a driver was committing a crime, like drinking and driving, at the time of an accident, the insurer may refuse to cover any of the cost. Drivers can have their wages garnished or assets liquidated in order to pay a judgment against them.
California also gives passengers the right to sue for damages in any car accident, particularly if the cost of treating the passengers’ injuries exceeds what the insurer is willing to pay. California follows a “pure comparative negligence” law, meaning that a plaintiff can receive compensation, regardless of how much he or she contributed to the accident – though the amount received will be reduced based on degree of fault.
Scenario 3: A Third Party is Sued
If the at-fault driver was operating under the terms of employment at the time of the accident, the driver’s employer may be held liable for passenger injuries. If the motor vehicle malfunctioned due to a manufacturing defect, the auto maker may be held liable in a product liability lawsuit. If the motor vehicle failed to perform due to a poor repair, the maintenance center can be sued. Government entities serve as defendants when unnecessary road hazards or poorly maintained roads contribute to the accident.
Scenario 4: Each Driver’s Insurance Pays for Their Own Passengers’ Injuries
If you are driving in a “no-fault” insurance state, you are subject to their laws. In 16 states — including Oregon, Utah, and New York — each driver’s own insurance covers their own passengers, regardless of who was at fault. If you are injured as a passenger in a car and wish to file a lawsuit, you will need to file in the state where the accident occurred.
Injured as a Passenger in a Car Accident? Call Ellis Injury Law
Lawsuits allow as many parties to be listed as played a role in causing the accident, which is why it’s important to contact a lawyer to help determine liability for your claim. If you were injured as a passenger in a car crash, you may be owed substantial money damages. The Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Ellis Injury Law offer free consultations and contingency-based representation for all auto accident claims. Call anytime, 24/7, to schedule your no-cost case review.