I Was A Passenger In A Car Accident In Columbia, SC. Who Pays My Medical Bills?
A motor vehicle crash is usually the fault of one or more drivers – passengers are very rarely responsible for these accidents. Most of the discussion about car crashes revolves around the at-fault driver and the injured driver. But passengers can definitely be hurt in a collision, too. A passenger who is injured in a car crash is entitled to the same legal remedies as an injured driver. This means he or she may also be compensated for medical expenses.
It is important to note that in some cases a lawyer cannot represent both an injured passenger and her driver. There could be a potential conflict. The conflict arises if both drivers in a two vehicle wreck blame the other. There, the best position for the passenger is to bring claims against both drivers, including her own. This may mean bringing claims against one’s friend, spouse or relative. Typically, with dueling drivers, claims against both is the strongest legal position for the passenger. It does however, preclude the same lawyer from representing both the passenger and her driver.
However, it can be especially confusing to obtain payments for an injured car passenger. There are several potential sources of compensation, which hinges on which driver is liable. Unsurprisingly, this sometimes gives rise to disputes between the parties involved. An experienced accident lawyer is often needed for an injured passenger to navigate this legal maze and get rightfully compensated.
Sources Of Compensation For An Injured Car Passenger
Making an insurance claim is typically the first course of action for an individual harmed in an accident. But whose insurance policy should cover a passenger’s injuries? In South Carolina, liability is fault-based, which means that whoever is at fault for the injury should pay for the associated medical costs. This is regardless of whether the at-fault party is the passenger’s own driver or the driver of another vehicle.
Note that it is possible that more than other drivers or parties could be found at-fault. In this case, the injured passenger would be entitled to compensation from all liable parties.
It normally takes time and some considerable negotiation to get compensated by a liable driver’s insurer. For injured individuals to obtain faster payment in the meantime, one option would be to claim against their own health insurance. Depending on the policy, the health insurance provider may place a lien on the passenger’s anticipated reimbursement from the liable driver.
There are also cases where the at-fault driver carries insufficient insurance or no insurance at all. In such a case, the passenger’s own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage would apply. UIM is not required in South Carolina, but it could prove a useful purchase when finding yourself injured by a driver who cannot pay your bills.
Injured Passenger In A Taxi Crash Or Ridesharing Accident
The circumstances are slightly different when a transportation company is involved. There are two crash scenarios where a passenger could be injured: 1) if he or she is a passenger in a hired vehicle like a taxi or an Uber, which gets involved in a collision; or 2) if he or she is a passenger in a private car that gets involved in a collision with a hired vehicle. Either way, the injured passenger may wonder if the company of the hired vehicle should provide compensation.
The answer depends on which kind of transportation business it is. Taxi companies and ridesharing companies (like Uber and Lyft) differ in their policies for passenger insurance.
Taxi companies are required to provide their employee drivers with commercial auto insurance. This allows an injured party to pursue a standard fault-based insurance claim. In other words, when a taxi driver is at-fault in the collision, the commercial insurance policy should cover the injuries of passengers, even if they are not the taxi’s own passengers.
On the other hand, rideshare companies base their passenger coverage on whether the vehicle is on-duty or off-duty. Ridesharing cars are basically private vehicles that owners can put up for hire when they want. This means that Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare companies do not actually employ those drivers nor own the vehicles.
Policies with each company differ, but in general, a company would have to pay only if the accident occurred while the vehicle is “on-duty” or for hire. Otherwise, if the rideshare driver is “off-duty”, any accident liability would have to be answered by his or her personal auto insurance.
When Disputes Arise In Passenger Claims
As discussed above, the at-fault party is liable to pay for a passenger’s injuries. But very often, the fault in a car accident remains unproven for a time, and insurance companies point fingers at each other to avoid liability. In this common dispute, the injured passenger may pursue claims against both drivers to ensure full compensation once fault is established.
It is also common for passengers themselves to get in disputes with their own friends or family members who happened to be driving them at the time of their crash. In fact, there have been cases in SC where one spouse was the injured passenger suing the other spouse who was the at-fault driver.
Call Kassel McVey today at (803) 256-4242 for a free consultation.
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