Can Passengers Recover Damages for Injuries Suffered in Car Crashes?
In Texas, passengers in vehicles that are involved in an traffic accident are able to make recoveries from the drivers of adverse vehicles, the driver of the vehicle they are a passenger in, and in some instances the driver of the vehicle they were in as well as the drivers of adverse vehicles.
Determining Duty of Care and Negligence in an Auto Accident Case
When an individual is operating a motor vehicle, they owe a duty of care not only to other drivers, but to all other road users, including passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The establishment of this duty of care can be traced as far back as 1832 when Boss V Litton concluded “all persons, paralytic as well as others, have a right to walk on the road and are entitled to the reasonable care on the part of persons driving carriages upon it.”
As such, if you are the passenger in a automobile, you are owed a duty of reasonable care by the person operating that motor vehicle as well as all other motorists on the road. This notion is important because responsibility for a motor vehicle accident can fall on more than one person at time, resulting in split liability.
With the help of industry and regulatory experts, an experienced personal injury attorney can identify the factors and torts that caused an accident and who should be held liable. Should the suit go trial, the court will assign a percentage of liability to each at-fault driver with each driver being financially responsible for their portion of the damages.
Keep in mind that accidents involving split liability tend to be more complicated than those involving a single driver as you will be dealing with multiple insurance companies. Additionally, these insurance companies may not agree on where the majority of liability lies. That is why it is best to contact an attorney in split liability claims.
What Are the Top Causes of Auto Accidents Resulting in Injury to Passengers?
- On average, speeding is determined to be a contributing factor in about 30 percent of all fatal crashes. In 2015 alone, speeding resulted in 9,957 fatal accidents.
- Distracted Driving
- Distracted driving is a growing concern throughout Texas and the United States. As smartphones and digital devices become more prevalent, so do the recorded cases of distracted driving accidents. In 2014, distracted driving was determined to be a factor in 18% of all injury crashes and 10% of all fatal crashes, resulting in 3,179 deaths and an estimated 431,000 injuries.
- Drunk Driving
- More than 30 percent of traffic-related deaths are the result of drunk driving with drunk drivers killing an estimated 28 people every day. Further, drunk driving lowers a driver’s inhibitions, leading them to make other dangerous driving choices. For example, a 2012 analysis determined that 42 percent of all speeding drivers were also legally drunk.
- Reckless Driving
- Reckless driving is a general disregard of traffic regulations and safety, whether the driver’s actions or intentional or accidental. Examples of reckless driving can include, disregarding stop signs or other posted traffic signs, unsafe changes of direction, unsafe lane changes, and failing to keep proper lookout.
What Are the Most Common Injuries Passengers Sustain in Crashes?
Depending on the severity of a collision, the extent of a passenger’s injuries may vary from painful to disabling to fatal. Among the injuries most commonly suffered by passengers in a motor vehicle accident are:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Strained ligaments
- Back muscle sprains
- Scrapes and Cuts
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Chest injuries
- Broken ribs
- Internal injuries
- Broken bones
- Jaw injuries
- Loss of teeth
- Neck injuries
- Crushed larynx
- Crushed trachea
- Broken neck
- Pelvic injuries
- Penetration injuries
What Should I Do If I am a Passenger in a Car Accident?
- Assess the situation. Take a moment to assess the situation. Check yourself, your driver, and any other passengers for injuries. Determine if it is safe to exit the vehicle and, if it is, find a place where you are removed from additional danger. Refrain from moving anyone who has suffered a back, neck, or spinal injury if at all possible.
- Make the Accident Visible. If your driver is incapacitated, then it falls on you to make the accident visible. Activate the vehicle’s warning lights and activate road flares or set out reflectors if you know where they are. This can help prevent subsequent collisions.
- Contact the Police. If the accident constitutes an emergency, call 911; otherwise, contact your local police department. Be sure you receive a detailed police report.
- Take Pictures. Even if it is not your vehicle that was involved in the accident, take pictures of the scene. This can be vital in proving any injury claims that may result from the collision.
- Seek Medical Attention. Pain and injuries may not be immediately evident following a crash. If you begin to feel any pain or if you fear you may have suffered an injury, err on the side of caution. There is no harm in getting a check-up, even if it is only for peace of mind.
- Contact an Experienced Car Crash Attorney. The role of your attorney is not simply to file a lawsuit. An attorney is responsible for protecting your rights and for making sure insurance companies are acting in your best interest. A good attorney will help you obtain and protect valuable evidence, provide legal advice before you provide a statement to the insurers, ensure you receive the medical attention you need, and press insurers to process your claim in a timely and fair manner. Should your rights be infringed upon, the best attorneys are those who are willing and ready to go to trial.