Traditionally, many people think of a car accident as a matter handled exclusively between the drivers of the vehicles.
But what happens when a passenger is caught up in a car or truck accident that results in injuries? Does Indiana even allow for an injured passenger to recover compensation? Will insurance companies play by the same rules? All great questions!
The good news is Indiana law does–depending on circumstances–allow injured passengers to recover compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, as with many laws, there are exceptions that can potentially prevent an injured passenger from seeking damages in the Hoosier state.
Who is Liable for a Passenger’s Injuries?
Before an injured passenger can request compensation from an insurance company, it must first be determined which driver is at fault for the accident.
One or more of the following will be used to determine who pays for a passenger’s injuries:
- Indiana accident report
- Physical evidence
- Crash scene photos
- Investigation performed by your attorney
- Witness statements
In addition to the Indiana accident report, asking an Indianapolis injury attorney to perform an independent investigation on your behalf will help to ensure that fault is properly established and all possible sources of insurance are located.
Once fault has been officially assigned to the correct driver(s), the passenger can file an Indiana personal injury claim and request compensation for the following:
Keep in mind, there are also rare instances in which a passenger is found to share the responsibility or contribute to the accident that caused their injuries. How is this possible?
The insurance company’s goal is to reduce their exposure so that they do not have to pay out maximum compensation. One of the ways they may attempt to do this is by assigning fault to the passenger.
In certain cases, Boulton Law Group has witnessed insurance companies try to claim one or more of the following:
- You got into a vehicle with a driver who you knew or suspected was under the influence.
- You caused a distraction for the driver and/or grabbed the wheel of the vehicle.
- You were not wearing your seatbelt.
Depending on the facts of the case, if it is determined that you did contribute to the accident, Indiana law maintains that your compensation be reduced by your percentage of fault.
For example, if your total damages equaled $50,000 but you are 10% at fault for the accident, your total compensation would be reduced by $5,000, leaving you with $45,000.
Ultimately, if you are an injured passenger and the insurance company claims that you share fault for the accident, we highly recommend that you ask an experienced personal injury lawyer for advice. It is possible that an attorney can reduce or completely absolve you of any fault for the crash.
Indiana’s Guest Statute – Are You Related to the Driver?
At the beginning of this article, we mentioned “exceptions” being a factor in whether or not an injured passenger can recover compensation. There is a little-known Indiana law that accounts for one of these exceptions.
In addition to Indiana’s laws regarding comparative fault, the Hoosier state also has what is known as a Guest Statute (Indiana Code 34-30-11).
In short, this statute says the at-fault driver cannot be pursued for damages by their passenger if the passenger is one of the following:
- Driver’s husband or wife
- Driver’s mother or father
- Driver’s sister or brother
- Driver’s child or stepchild
Additionally, if you were picked up as a hitchhiker, you will not be allowed to file a claim against the driver of the vehicle in which you were traveling.
And to make things a bit more complex, there is also an exception to the Guest Statute exception! If the driver of your vehicle exhibited wanton and willful misconduct, it may be possible for the injured passenger to pursue compensation despite their relationship to the at-fault driver.
Wanton and willful misconduct occurs when the driver of a vehicle is found to have been reckless or committed an especially egregious act of negligence.
Should Injured Passengers Talk to Insurance Companies?
Boulton Law Group always recommends that injured passengers speak to an experienced personal injury attorney BEFORE talking to the insurance company. Having an attorney on your side helps to ensure your legal rights are fully protected.
If you are not represented by an attorney, the insurance company may attempt one or more of the following:
- Ask you for a recorded statement.
- Request that you sign a medical authorization release.
- Accept a quick settlement offer (before you have finished treating).
An injured passenger that agrees to any of the above requests risks having their total compensation reduced or having their entire claim dismissed.
For these reasons, we offer injured passengers free legal consultations so that they have an opportunity to better understand the tactics an insurance company may use to limit their exposure.
Ask for a Free, No-Pressure Case Evaluation
Attorney Matt Boulton has more than 20 years’ experience helping injured Hoosiers, including passengers involved in serious car and truck accidents.
If you have questions about your legal rights as a passenger or wish to learn more about the types of compensation you may be owed, Boulton Law Group is available to you for a risk-free, friendly case evaluation.
In fact, attorney Boulton offers all injured passengers a Zero Fee Guarantee. This promise is aimed at providing every Indiana resident with equal access to award-winning legal representation.
To speak to attorney Boulton about your accident, call 317-350-2680. There will never be a cost for your consultation.
If you prefer to write to us, you can use our confidential contact form to send us the details of your potential case. Attorney Boulton personally reviews all web contact received by our firm.
Attorney Matt Boulton is an award-winning personal injury attorney with more than 20 years of experience helping seriously injured people throughout Indiana reclaim what was taken from them. His firm was created for for the client who expects exceptional service and passionate, successful legal representation.