Car accidents are common occurrences around the world. The US alone witnesses 11 deaths per 100,000 people on average due to car crashes.
But the victims of a vehicle accident aren’t always the drivers, or rather, just the drivers. Passengers inside the car can also sustain grievous injuries due to the driver’s negligence. The law also recognizes passengers as victims of a car crash, who have the right to claim damages from the insurance company and initiate a personal injury lawsuit against the driver (if his negligence resulted in the accident).
But the facts to a case aren’t always so simple. Establishing negligence on the part of the driver is necessary for the victim to claim injury against them, and at times, the lines do get blurred.
In California, to pursue charges of personal injury against the driver, you need to establish that their negligence directly or indirectly caused the accident to happen. Proving negligence could become tricky in the absence of experienced legal attorneys who’ve dealt with car accident cases in the past.
A key point to note here is that there are multiple parties to a car crash and more than a single driver involved (vehicle collision cases). Identifying liability on a party varies as per the facts of the case. Read on below to know about your passenger rights and who’s at fault in a car crash.
Liable Parties to a Car Accident
Generally, you’d think of two drivers and the passengers in both vehicles as parties to a car crash. But when it comes to litigation, insurance companies are also involved, along with third parties in some cases.
In California, parties who are liable for the causation of the accident have to pay up all the victims involved in the car crash. Insurers have clear policy guidelines on car accident liability, but there are always gaps in such policies that can also confer the liability on the policyholder.
Furthermore, there can also be multiple parties that could be held accountable for the accident. In some cases, even the manufacturers or maintenance personnel were held liable for the auto accident.
Let’s discuss each of these parties at length:
The Insurers Liability
In California, the law suggests that the insurance company has to inspect the crash, and the subsequent police report will determine liability as to which party should pay up the damages. The insurer has 15 days to acknowledge the claim and can take no longer than 40 days to approve or deny their liability to pay up the damages. In case of any settlement agreement between the insurance company and the parties, the insurer will have another 30 days to make the payment as per the settlement terms.
The insurance company can also come to the conclusion that both drivers were irresponsible leading up to the accident. In this case, both the insurance companies are liable to share the cost of damages to be paid to the victims. The cost of damages that each insurer has to bear will be as per the ascribed percentage of responsibility of the drivers.
California law also requires third-party insurance of $15,000 for any injury to the other party, along with a total of $30,000 for bodily injury and another $5,000 for compensating any property damages.
The amount of liability of the insurer will be up to the coverage amount of the policy. A motorist can, however, purchase additional coverage from the insurer to increase the payout amount.
In certain ‘no fault’ states, each of the driver’s insurers will be held liable to pay for the injuries sustained by their passengers, regardless of who was at fault here.
The Driver’s Liability
The driver can also be held personally liable to the extent of injury caused to another person and any property damage resulting from the accident.
Insurance companies would exclude their liability for coverage if the driver were committing an illegal act, like being intoxicated while driving the vehicle. In cases where the driver will be liable to pay for the damages, their wages or assets are liquidated by the court for compensating the injured parties.
But, there are other cases as well in which the driver would be made liable to pay for the injuries and damages caused. The passengers can file an injury lawsuit against the driver if the compensation received from the insurer isn’t adequate enough to meet their medical expenses.
The Passenger’s Liability
The passenger can claim any injury sustained by them due to the accident from the negligent party, regardless of their part in the accident. This means that even though a passenger had contributed to the accident due to their negligence, if they’ve suffered injuries, they have the right to receive compensation. The amount, however, will be reduced to the extent of the degree of fault of the passenger.
Third-party liability is incurred in circumstances when the driver is an employee and was driving under the terms of employment. In the event of an accident, the employer of the driver will be held liable to the extent of injuries or damages.
Similarly, any mishap arising due to manufacturing defects in the vehicle will place the liability on the carmaker under product liability. If the incident occurred due to faulty repairs made on the vehicle, the maintenance personnel could be held accountable. Even the Government can be responsible for damages; if ill-maintained roads are found to be the direct cause for the accident.
Are you in Need of Personal Injury Lawyers in California?
Lawsuits can be tricky and a challenging prospect for victims to receive fair compensation for their injuries. Hiring a lawyer to represent your claims in complex trials is required to determine who’s liable to pay for your injury claim.
If you’ve been a victim of a car crash as a passenger in California, our car accident and personal injury attorneys at Niral Patel can help you receive all the monetary damages you’ve sustained and hold the responsible party liable to pay for the damages.
Book a consultation session today for one of our experienced attorneys to review your case and determine the extent of your rights.