Traumatized passenger calling for help after car accident

What to Do as an Injured Passenger

Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law Jan. 24, 2023

Along with the initial fear and pain, being involved in a car accident can have long-lasting consequences. As an injured passenger, the situation can be quite stressful and potentially overwhelming. If you were injured in an accident as a passenger, you need to know where to turn and what your next steps are. Luckily, you don’t have to face this alone. 

At Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law, our personal injury attorneys are ready to help you fight for your compensation, as well as guide you to your next best option. From our Maui, Hawaii, office, we are committed to helping our clients get fair compensation for their injuries sustained in a car accident. Call us today for diligent legal advocacy.  

Determining Fault in Hawaii 

Fault refers to the party responsible for causing a car accident. As a result, the insurance company must determine who was at fault for the accident. While fault is a key element in seeking fair compensation for personal injuries, each state has a different way that they move forward with fault. States are either classified as at-fault or no-fault insurance states. 

In at-fault states, the liable party is responsible for covering material damages and personal injuries of affected victims. Therefore, accident victims can file a personal injury claim against the liable party’s insurance. 

However, Hawaii is a no-fault state. This classification means that injured parties, regardless of liability, must file a personal injury claim against their own insurance policy, even if they have no liability in the accident. Moreover, injured passengers may file a claim against the driver of the car they occupied if that driver’s policy has personal injury protection (PIP) covering passengers. 

Filing a Personal Injury Claim in Hawaii 

If you’ve been the victim as an injured passenger in a car accident, you may wonder what to do, since you weren’t in a car that your insurance connects to. However, you have options: 

  • Filing a claim against own insurance. In no-fault states, injured passengers would need to file a personal injury claim with their own insurance. However, the injured passenger’s insurance will first determine if the driver’s insurance has PIP coverage before accepting a claim on the passenger’s policy. An injured passenger’s auto or medical insurance can typically cover injuries sustained in an accident. 

  • Filing a claim against the driver. If the driver of the vehicle the passenger occupied has PIP (Personal Injury Protection), the injured passenger can file a claim against their policy. However, the driver’s insurance may not have a sufficient policy limit to cover all of the injured passenger’s expenses. This point is especially important when injured passengers sustain significant injuries, need long-term care, or require extensive surgical procedures. 

  • Filing a claim against the other party. When expenses exceed policy limits or when the other party is liable for the accident, injured passengers may choose to file a lawsuit against the other party. Please note that doing so can take months before a final decision is made. 

A good rule of thumb is for injured passengers to speak with a professional personal injury attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney can help injured passengers determine their options. In doing so, injured passengers can begin recovering expenses related to medical bills resulting from the accident. 

Passenger Liability 

Please bear in mind that not only drivers can be liable for a car accident. Passengers may also have liability in an accident. When passengers are liable for an accident (or at least partially liable), the insurance payout may decrease based on the amount of liability assigned to them. For example, if a passenger is found to be 25% liable for an accident, insurers may reduce payouts by this amount. 

So, how can a passenger be liable for an accident? 

Consider these situations: 

A passenger behaves recklessly inside the vehicle. For instance, the passenger argues, yells, or distracts the driver causing an accident. The driver is liable due to their carelessness. Additionally, the passenger is also liable since they caused the driver’s distraction or incapacitation. 

Passengers may also be liable if they operate the vehicle while in the passenger seat. For instance, grabbing the steering wheel, operating the brakes, or gear shifts can cause a passenger to be considered the vehicle’s driver causing them to become liable. 

Also, passengers may share liability if they enable the driver to consume alcohol or drugs. For instance, a passenger that knowingly rides with an intoxicated driver may be considered complicit in an accident. Consequently, passengers must avoid allowing intoxicated drivers to get behind the wheel whenever possible. 

Passenger liability is determined during the investigation. So, it is important for passengers to be aware of any role they may have played in causing the accident. Speaking with a personal injury attorney can help injured passengers determine if they may have any fault in the accident. 

Getting the Right Legal Counsel in Hawaii 

At Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law, we are committed to helping you understand your options. When you meet with us, let us know what is most important to you. We’ll share your options, the pros and cons of each, and then you can agree on what plan of action works best for you. And along the way, you will be informed through every step. We go the extra mile to help our clients recover expenses and get their lives back on track. Reach out today to speak with a professional personal injury attorney. Our team is on standby waiting to take your call.