You probably know what you should do if you get hurt in a car accident that isn’t your fault. You need medical care, and you must notify the insurance company to start a claim. It is a unique situation when your passenger sustains injuries in a crash. Knowing what to do isn’t as straightforward.
You likely had a family member or friend in your vehicle. You care about their well-being and want them to recover the compensation they need to heal. However, that might mean they’ll file an injury claim with your auto insurer if you caused the accident. The consequences can include increased insurance premiums and maybe money out of your pocket.
Understanding Passenger Rights Under Virginia Law
Virginia law allows the passenger of a vehicle owned or operated by a person providing transportation without payment to recover compensation for an injury if an accident results from the operator’s negligent operation of the vehicle.
In other words, your passenger can file an injury claim or lawsuit against you if you are at fault for the crash. The money they receive in a successful case can compensate for their medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.
Auto Insurance Options in Virginia
You can avoid purchasing liability insurance for your car if you pay a $500 fee for an uninsured motor vehicle to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. After paying the fee, you can drive without auto insurance for twelve months. You must pay the fee each year to remain uninsured. However, if you cause a collision, the injured party can hold you personally liable for resulting losses.
If you carry liability coverage, you must maintain these minimum limits:
- $30,0000 for bodily injury or death of one person
- $60,000 for bodily injury or death of all people injured in an accident
- $20,000 for property damage per accident
Liability insurance covers someone else’s injuries, so your passenger can file a claim with your insurance carrier if you are at fault for the crash. If someone else causes the crash, your passenger can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s liability insurer. They might also be able to pursue a lawsuit and take the case to court.
However, the other motorist might not have insurance. Instead, your passenger could file a claim with your uninsured motorist (UM) insurance company. UM covers bodily injury and property damage suffered by the driver and the passengers in their vehicle. This coverage is required if you purchase auto insurance.
Exceptions to the Passenger Law
You might provide a transportation service and cause an accident that injures your passenger. Instead of holding you financially responsible, your passenger can pursue action against your employer.
For example, if you are at fault for an accident while driving your passenger in a taxi, they can hold the taxi company that employs you liable instead of seeking compensation directly from you. Vicarious liability applies when an employee’s negligence causes someone else’s injuries. The employer becomes financially responsible for their employee’s actions.
Protect Yourself After a Car Accident
Your passenger can sue you for compensation if you are to blame for the accident. Avoiding liability isn’t an option if you are at fault. You must not lie to the investigating officer or insurance company during investigations. That can cause significant problems.
Your primary responsibility after a car crash is to ensure your passenger’s safety. Get them the medical treatment they need, and give them your insurance information.
Deering Hedrick has represented Virginia Beach clients for over thirty years. If your passenger sustained injuries in a car accident, learn more about what you should do by calling us at 757-383-6848 for an initial case evaluation.