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What Happens if You’re Injured as a Passenger in Texas?

Understanding Liability as a Passenger in a Houston Car Accident

Houston can be a dangerous place for drivers. The city is among those with the highest crash rates in Texas. Houston roads aren’t just dangerous for drivers, though; passengers are often injured in car accidents, too. There’s a lot of information about what a driver should do after an accident, but not as much regarding injured passengers and how they can get maximum compensation for their injuries and losses.

With very few exceptions, passengers are not at fault for car accidents they’re involved in. Responsibility for a car crash almost always falls on someone who was operating a motor vehicle. However, that doesn’t mean getting compensation as an injured passenger is easy. Insurance companies will use any excuse to reject or reduce claims.

To get the most for their injuries, passengers often consult experienced Houston car accident attorneys who investigate crashes and build strong cases for substantial settlements while their clients focus on healing. Read on to learn more about how passengers injured in Texas car accidents can demand the justice and compensation they deserve with a lawyer’s help. (If you were injured in a Houston car accident, contact a lawyer you can trust for a free case evaluation right now.)

Common passenger injuries in car wrecks

Car accident compensation is largely based on injury severity. In general, the more severe the injuries are, the more damages the injured person is entitled to collect. Common injuries suffered by passengers include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) like concussions and other head injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Fractured bones
  • Chest injuries
  • Internal organ damage
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Back injuries

Covering the cost of medical treatment for any of these injuries out of pocket is not an affordable option for most people. This is why drivers are required to carry insurance. However, to get a proper settlement from the insurance company, injured passengers must fight for it. An experienced lawyer can put an injured car accident victim in the strongest position to demand a big settlement.

Can a passenger be at fault in a Texas car accident?

It happens, but it’s very rare. Some scenarios where a passenger could be found liable for a car crash include:

  • Grabbing the steering wheel.
  • Forcing something into the driver’s line of vision, thus blocking their ability to see the road.
  • Making loud, sudden noises that startle a driver.
  • Touching or assaulting the driver.
  • Throwing things around the vehicle.
  • Encouraging the driver to speed, run a red light, or otherwise operate recklessly.

Unless one of these very specific circumstances exists, it’s highly unlikely that a passenger is at all at fault in a Texas car accident. There’s a very strong presumption that a driver was responsible, not a passenger. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to determine who is at fault – which can make getting compensation difficult.

Who pays for an injured passenger’s medical expenses after a car accident?

Injured passengers are typically entitled to compensation either through an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit. One of the first steps to collecting damages is identifying who is liable. The liable party is usually one of the drivers involved, but not necessarily. Potential sources of compensation include:

  • The driver of the vehicle the passenger was riding in. In Texas, the at-fault driver’s liability insurance covers anyone else who was injured by that driver’s negligence, including passengers in their own car.
  • The driver(s) of the other vehicle(s) in the accident, if they were at fault.
  • Another party that caused or contributed to the accident, such as a manufacturer of a defective vehicle.

If you own a car and were injured in someone else’s car, some types of coverage from your own policy may also apply, depending on the policy language. A lawyer can investigate the accident, identify all liable parties and aggressively pursue compensation.

Compensation for injured car accident passengers

To collect damages, a passenger would usually submit a claim to the at-fault driver’s car insurance. According to Texas law, all drivers must have bodily injury liability insurance with a minimum limit of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident – the per-accident limit is frequently a factor in passenger injury claims because there is often more than one injured person. Many drivers carry more insurance than this. In general, injured car accident passengers are entitled to damages for:

  • Past, present, and future medical expenses.
  • Lost wages.
  • Property damage.
  • Pain and suffering in some circumstances.

There is no single average settlement for an injured passenger. It all depends on the severity of your injuries, the extent to which those injuries have affected your life, the available insurance, and the skill of your lawyer.

When the driver at fault in a car accident is a family member

One of the challenges for injured passengers is that the at-fault driver is often the driver of the car they were riding in – usually a friend or family member. It may be hard to accuse a close friend or relative of being at fault for a wreck. But remember, even if you have to file a lawsuit, the goal isn’t to take your friend’s money; it’s simply to get their insurance company to pay up.

Insurance policies often make carefully worded distinctions about when a car insurance policy applies to family. The language can be convoluted and hard to understand without a background in law and years of experience fighting for victims’ rights in Texas. This is especially true for family members seeking to use insurance on which they are listed but are not, themselves, the policyholder.

Here are some tricky situations to navigate:

  • Usually, in a car accident, the driver’s insurance policies cover members of the immediate family but not an extended family member.
  • If the injured passenger is a family member listed on the driver’s insurance policy, then the passenger is covered, though their ability to file a lawsuit for damages may be limited.
  • If the passenger is listed on the policy, but does not live with the policyholder, benefits may be affected.
  • The injured passenger may be exempt from coverage if they got into the car knowing that the driver was unable to safely operate the motor vehicle. For example, agreeing to get a ride from a driver that the passenger knows is drunk, fatigued, or unlicensed may be interpreted by an insurance adjuster as recklessness and affect the passenger’s right to file a claim.

Insurance policies are written to be confusing. When things get technical, it can be good to have a lawyer to expose unfair interpretations of policy benefits and demand full compensation.

A compassionate Houston car accident lawyer can help injured passengers

Let’s be clear: A passenger’s relationship with the at-fault driver has nothing to do with the fact that the driver’s insurance provider owes the injured person money after a crash. When a passenger is injured in a Texas car accident, filing a claim is the right thing to do.

The way to handle this is to take the personal relationship out of the situation. A lawyer can handle the case and take over communications with the at-fault party and their insurance company. In most situations, we’re able to resolve the case by working directly with the insurance company, so the driver doesn’t have to be personally involved.

An experienced Houston car accident lawyer can:

  • Investigate the crash.
  • Collect evidence.
  • Protect the passenger’s right to compensation when other people involved in the accident attempt to deflect blame.
  • Gather expert testimony.
  • Build a strong case the insurance companies cannot ignore.
  • Negotiate aggressively for maximum compensation.
  • File a lawsuit and seek compensation through the courts if the insurance company won't make a substantial offer.

Take the relationship out of the accident

After a bad car accident, emotions are running high. Victims and drivers are surrounded by pain and uncertainty. Under these conditions, it can be difficult to distinguish between what is legally required of the claims process and the independent actions of loved ones. Feelings can be hurt. Relationships can be damaged. After a car accident, take the emotion out of the situation and have a lawyer handle the claim.

For more than 40 years, the experienced Houston car accident lawyers at Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law have been on the side of injured car accident victims in the Greater Houston Area and throughout Texas. Our law firm has recovered millions of dollars in damages for injured accident victims and the families of fatal car accidents, including $1.38 million for victims of an 18-wheeler collision.

We have a deep understanding of the laws and regulations that apply to passenger injury claims in Texas. Whether you were a passenger in an Uber or Lyft vehicle, driving with family or friends, or another situation, we know how to handle it. When loved ones are involved, we work hard to maintain your relationships while also pursuing maximum compensation.

Tell the insurance company you mean business

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a Houston car accident, contact us to schedule a free evaluation. At no cost to you, a member of our team can answer your crash-related legal questions, estimate the value of your claim, and help you decide what to do next. You should also know that our lawyers work on contingency. That means there is no upfront or out of pocket expense for our services. And if we don’t win, you don't pay.

A member of the Smith & Hassler team is available to hear from you anytime, day or night. Contact us to schedule your free case evaluation today.

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