Two Reasons Passengers May Not Collect Damages In An Auto Accident

Posted on: 5 November 2017


When you're a passenger in an auto accident, you have just as much a right to collect compensation for your injuries as the driver. Unfortunately, there are some things that can prevent you from doing so. Here are two things that can affect the success of your accidents case and what, if anything, you can do about them:

You're Married to the Liable Party

A common reason a passenger may be barred from collecting damages for an accident is that he or she is married to the person who caused the accident. This is because most insurance companies have clauses excluding coverage for actions caused by the spouse's significant other. Married couples are considered a unified entity and, thus, liability for the incident is shared according to the insurance company.

It may be possible to sue your spouse directly for the damages and losses you sustain in the accident. This may prompt the insurance company to come to his or her defense and settle the case with you. However, this option is not available in every state. Additionally, unless you're planning on getting a divorce, you would only end up being awarded marital property you already share.

The Driver Was Intoxicated

Another reason you may be awarded reduced damages for an accident (or none at all) is if the driver was intoxicated and you knew that when you got into the vehicle with the person. The law expects people to take steps to prevent their own injuries. If you knowingly get into a vehicle with an intoxicated driver, the insurance company and/or the judge in any lawsuit you file will typically rule that you contributed to your injuries by doing so, because it's a well-known fact that drunk driving is a high accident risk.

What will typically happen in this type of case is the insurance company or judge will assign a percentage of liability to you. Depending on where you live, your damages may be reduced by your percentage of liability (e.g., if you're found 20 percent liable, you would only receive 80 percent of your damages) or you may be barred from collecting any compensation at all.

It can be challenging to litigate this issue, but you may still prevail if you can convince the insurance company or the court that you didn't know or couldn't have known the person was intoxicated or that your reasoning was also impaired, which prevented you from making the right decision in the situation (e.g. you were also drunk).

For more information about this issues or help with your accident case, contact a personal injury attorney.