Driving a motor vehicle comes with a certain amount of inherent risk. Whether operating a car, truck, or motorcycle, we know that things can go wrong. Mechanical failures, road debris, the negligence of other drivers, and even our own lack of diligence are a few of the things that can lead to unfortunate car wrecks and personal injuries.
However, when we are driving, at least we feel like we have some amount of control over the situation. But what about automobile passengers? Typically passengers are just “along for the ride” and have little to no control over whether a crash occurs. In this article, we will discuss the rights of automobile passengers following a car or semi-truck accident.
Automobile Passengers Have Rights
Automobile passengers who suffer personal injuries in motor vehicle accidents have the same rights to be compensated for their injuries as anyone else. In fact, passengers are often in the best position of all to prove their right to recover. We’ll explain why.
Assume a passenger is riding in a car that has a crash with another automobile or tractor-trailer truck. The drivers of both vehicles and the automobile passenger all suffer serious injuries. Who can recover against whom?
The law answers this by determining which driver is negligent and therefore legally responsible for the accident. In many cases, the drivers of each vehicle will point the finger at one another, claiming that the other driver is liable for the accident. Sometimes it is clear that one driver or the other is responsible. In other cases, both drivers will be partly responsible. Finally, sometimes it takes a jury to make this determination.
With regard to the drivers, the determination of liability may actually prevent one of the drivers from recovering. However, a passenger is rarely responsible for an accident. Therefore, the passenger is free to sue either or both of the drivers. Thus, while the negligence of the drivers may limit their recovery, the passenger typically will not face such a limitation.
Certainly, there are rare instances where a passenger takes an action, such as grabbing the steering wheel or distracting the driver, that may be considered negligent and affect recovery, but these are the exception and not the rule.
Insurance Coverage Can Be Complicated
Our simple example above considers only recovery against a driver, who should be covered by liability insurance. As we have previously discussed, Oregon law requires every automobile driver to carry certain minimum coverages. This includes personal injury protection (“PIP”), which provides coverage regardless of fault, and uninsured motorist coverage, which applies when the liable party does not have insurance, or has an insufficient amount of coverage.
Oregon requires the following insurance coverages:
- $25,000.00 bodily injury liability for a single person
- $50,000.00 bodily injury liability for multiple people in a single accident
- $20,000.00 property damage
- $15,000.00 PIP
- $25,000.00 UM coverage per person
- $50,000.00 UM coverage per crash
Keep in mind that multiple insurance policies may apply, including the passenger’s own insurance. In some instances, the coverages “stack,” meaning that recovery is permitted under more than one policy. These determinations can be complicated, and the help of an experienced personal injury attorney is advisable.
Discomfort Over Suing a Driver
Sometimes, the negligent driver is actually the passenger’s friend or family member. We understand that the idea of suing such a person is unpleasant. But keep in mind that these cases typically involve negotiations with insurance companies. The passenger’s friend or family member purchased insurance for just such an occasion. An injured passenger deserves to be made whole. Plus, it may be possible to resolve the case with the insurance company without ever filing suit.
Call with Questions
If you or a loved one has been injured as a passenger in an automobile accident or a truck wreck, you have the same rights to be compensated for your losses as others. This includes the right to recover both economic and non-economic damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and many others. However, we understand that you likely have questions about how to proceed. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are here to answer them. We handle cases all over Oregon and believe that holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions is the best way to protect society from wrongful behavior in the future. Please call us with your questions and for a free consultation.