Injured in a car accident? Who pays for it?

There can be several scenarios of a person getting injured in a car accident. The Injured can be a passenger in one of the cars involved in the accident, or a driver of either of the cars, or even just a bystander present near enough to the accident to get hurt. The claims procedure and the ensuing workflow would vary accordingly too.

Let us discuss the scenarios and their claim procedure one by one below:

  • Injured person was a passenger: In this case, the claim for personal injury compensation would have to be made against the insurance policy of the person responsible (the ‘At Fault’ driver) for the accident – either that would be the driver of the vehicle in which the injured was travelling or maybe a third party driver, or both if necessary.
  • Injured person was driving the ‘victim’ car in the crash: In most cases of car accidents, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly on whom the responsibility lies on the spot and can only be confirmed through detailed investigations by appropriate authorities. If, however, the accident can be clearly identified as a fault of one of the involved parties (example: a rear ended collision), the claim for personal injury compensation for the ‘victim’ driver would have to be addressed and paid by the other driver’s coverage. The ‘victim’ driver’s insurance would remain unaffected.
  • Injured person was driving the ‘At Fault’ car in the crash: This is a tricky situation and the rules vary across jurisdictions. By definition, any careless behavior which may contribute to a car accident is legally known as Negligence. There can be different types of negligence as defined by the state’s laws and the scope of claims would be adjusted accordingly, as detailed below:
  • Injured person was driving someone else’s car in the crash: The thumb rule is that anyone living in the insured’s house is typically covered while driving his car, unless expressly mentioned as excluded on the contract. In many cases, members of the same household are required to be included on the insured’s vehicle’s insurance. Hence, the claim process would follow the steps as applicable for the driver depending upon the confirmation of being the victim or the negligent driver, as mentioned above.
  • Injured person was a bystander present near enough to the accident to get hurt: If the injured was a pedestrian, pedal cyclist, motorcyclist or a driver with no responsibility in the crash, then he would claim the personal injury compensation against the insurance company of the responsible driver whose car collided with him.
  • When the injured person is liable for the coverage under all circumstances (Excluded drivers): If the injured driver was driving the car without the insured’s express permission, then one of the below scenarios could occur:

Other scenarios: Also, the insured can be sued for damages if:

  • Contributory Negligence: Total 5 states, namely: Alabama, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and North Carolina, apply the rule of contributory negligence to determine whether the injured person is eligible for compensation. Under this rule, if the driver is even partly (as low as 1%) at fault for the accident, there will not be any payment for his personal injury claim.
  • Comparative Negligence: The other states have established a comparative negligence system to decide how to justify claims for compensations related to car accidents. Under this rule, the compensation may be reduced for the driver if he is partly At Fault.

The exact rules depend on the state’s laws that would have legal jurisdiction on the accident:

  • Pure comparative negligence: The ‘At Fault’ driver gets compensated in proportion to the amount of the responsibility of the accident that was not his fault. So, if his injuries total cost was $50,000 while he was considered 50% at fault for the accident, his damages would be reduced by 50% and he would receive $25,000. Total 12 states recognize this rule, including California, New York, New Mexico, Alaska, Florida, Mississippi, Rhode Island etc. to name a few.
  • Modified comparative fault: The ‘At Fault’ driver receives compensation in proportion to the amount of the responsibility of the accident that was not his fault, but only if he was responsible for Less Than 50% of the accident (or, depending on the state of jurisdiction, 51%). If the responsibility percentage is higher than the set bar rule, then the damaged party cannot claim any compensation amount at all. Total 33 states follow either the 50% Bar Rule or the 51% bar rule to determine the scope of claim and compensation for the negligent driver.
  • Slight/Gross negligence comparative fault: This rule is applied only in South Dakota the scope of compensation for the At Fault driver varies based on the decision of whether his actions represented a Slight negligence or Gross negligence.

If any non-resident friends or family members get into an accident while driving the insured’s car after procuring explicit permission from the insured to drive it, they are generally covered by the insured’s car insurance coverage as the primary coverage. Their own car insurance policy would act as only secondary (or excess) insurance coverage.

  • Theft: If someone causes an accident in a stolen car, the insured won’t be liable for damages or injuries to the other vehicle or driver. However, the damages to the stolen vehicle would probably have to be covered under the insured’s own coverage.
  • Use of vehicle by a friend or family member without explicit permission: If a friend crashes the car while driving without explicit permission, their own insurance coverage would mostly pay first and the insured’s insurance would step in only to fill in the gaps, if any.
  • Use of your vehicle by an uninsured friend: If a friend takes the car without permission and is uninsured, the insured’s own car insurance coverage will have to pay.
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