People often question how to recover damages as a passenger in a car accident. In most cases, you will be covered by at least one driver’s liability insurance policy (unless the at-fault driver is uninsured).
Sometimes, both drivers share fault for the accident, and you may be able to recover from both. However, because sorting out liability and insurance coverage can be complicated, you may need some assistance in pursuing compensation.
Why Do You Need a Denver Passenger Car Accident Attorney?
Disputes about who was at fault or how much fault should be attributed to each driver can take time to settle. Once they do, one or both insurance companies will make every effort to pay you as little as possible, often shortchanging injured people who need compensation to put their lives back together.
Your car accident attorney will fight for your right to a fair settlement that covers all your damages.
What Damages Can You Seek in a Passenger Accident?
Here are some of the damages we will discuss to ensure a proper valuation of your claim:
- Medical bills. You can pursue compensation for your current and future medical costs. In most cases, we will wait until the client’s treatment is complete to settle the claim so no additional bills are missed. But in severe accidents where the client may need long-term care, we will estimate their future costs. Sometimes, the insurance company may push back on paying for particular treatments they don’t think are necessary, but we’ll work to get your care covered.
- Lost income. After an accident, you might miss a few days of work—or several weeks or months. These lost days can add up fast, wiping out your paid time off (PTO) and sometimes turning into unpaid time off. We’ll help you recover damages for both paid and unpaid time off.
- Reduced earning potential. In more serious accidents, you might develop a permanent disability or chronic pain that prevents you from returning to work or forces you to take a lower-paying position. You also deserve compensation for this lost earning potential.
- Permanent disability or disfigurement. You can seek damages for any permanent injury that affects your quality of life.
- Property damage. Usually, property damage applies to a damaged vehicle, which is often not an issue in passenger cases (unless you were a passenger in your own car). However, if you had any valuables with you (like a phone or laptop) and these were damaged in the crash, we can seek repair or replacement costs.
- Pain and suffering. Both physical and emotional pain and suffering are valid damages, but the insurance company may assign too low of a value to this category. We’ll work to ensure they take your pain seriously.
- Wrongful death. If you’ve lost someone you love in a car accident, you could be overwhelmed with bills and financial strain while you’re still grieving. We can seek damages such as final medical bills, funeral or burial costs, loss of financial support, loss of consortium or companionship, and more.
We’ll determine an appropriate value for each category and total them to learn what your settlement should be (a ballpark figure). When the insurance company makes you an offer, we will compare it to the full value of your claim, and if it doesn’t come close enough to meeting your needs, we’ll negotiate with the insurance carrier for a more fair resolution.
What if You Have Already Received an Offer From the Insurance Company?
Most people want to settle their claims as quickly and easily as possible, which is understandable. As a result, they may be inclined to accept the insurance company’s offer if it appears to cover everything.
However, we encourage you to review your offer with an attorney before you sign any paperwork. It’s hard to value your own claim, and many offers seem generous when they actually omit or undervalue some damages.
Your attorney will help you figure out if the offer is reasonable and will explain your options if it’s not.
What if You Are Injured as a Passenger in a Rideshare?
Both Uber and Lyft maintain robust liability insurance that covers passengers. The policy limit is fairly high compared to minimum insurance requirements for non-commercial drivers, so in most cases, your injury-related expenses should be covered.
However, the insurance adjuster may still make a lowball offer that doesn’t cover all your damages, deem some treatments unnecessary, or otherwise try to avoid paying what your claim is worth. An experienced car accident lawyer will fight to ensure you receive the full amount you deserve.
The rideshare company’s liability insurance is for situations where the rideshare driver is at fault in an accident. If another driver caused the crash, we will make a claim on their insurance policy.
Unless the other driver also operates a rideshare, they will probably have personal liability insurance. Colorado law only requires $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability insurance ($50,000 per accident) and $15,000 in property damage liability.
The other driver might have more coverage than that—but they might not. They could also be uninsured, which is the case for over 16 percent of Colorado residents.
If you own a car with uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UI), you can usually make a claim on this insurance when injured as a passenger in someone else’s car. If the other driver is underinsured—in other words, you have more damages than they have coverage—you can seek additional compensation up to your own policy limit.
Some rideshare users don’t own cars, so they have no UM/UI coverage. Uber and Lyft used to maintain UM/UI for drivers and passengers nationally but dropped this policy a few years ago, leaving a coverage gap for some riders.
However, the Colorado legislature passed a bill in 2022 requiring rideshare companies to provide uninsured motorist coverage for passengers in this state.
What if Both Drivers Are at Fault?
A driver who is partly to blame for an accident can recover damages from the driver who is primarily at fault but will lose their own share of responsibility from the final award. So, if Mary is 20 percent responsible for a car crash and Bob is 80 percent at fault, Mary can recover 80 percent of her damages from Bob’s insurance policy.
Insurance adjusters love to use this “comparative negligence” to reduce a claimant’s payout, but sometimes, they overestimate the injured person’s share of culpability.
In most cases, it’s hard for an insurance company to blame a passenger unless they were extremely reckless—grabbing the wheel, blocking the driver’s view, etc. So you probably won’t have to worry about defending your own actions.
However, each driver’s insurance carrier can only be held responsible for that driver’s share of fault. For this reason, you may need to make claims on both policies.
This could make your case more complicated, but your lawyer will work to recover all your damages from multiple sources if necessary.
What if My Friend/Relative Was Driving, and I Don’t Want to Sue Them?
These situations can be awkward, and you might have concerns about your friend’s financial situation—but at the same time, you shouldn’t be stuck with the bill for someone else’s driving mistakes. Fortunately, it may not be necessary to sue anyone, and even if it is, most car accident lawsuits are settled out of court.
If your friend or relative is at fault and they have insurance, the most likely scenario is that we will negotiate a deal with their insurance company. When this happens, you will receive a settlement, and your friend won’t have to pay anything personally (unless your injuries are severe and exceed the limits of their insurance coverage).
Insurance policies exist so injured people can get their damages paid without the driver losing their financial security.
If you have questions or concerns about an accident with a friend or relative, we suggest speaking with an attorney. Your consultation is confidential, and the decision is up to you once we explain your options.
How Can You Get Help From a Denver Passenger Car Accident Law Firm?
Please contact Olson Law Firm for a free consultation about your passenger car accident. We’ll review the details, answer your questions, and let you know the possibilities for pursuing compensation.
There is no obligation, and if we take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle it.
Attorney Sean Olson founded Olson Law Firm in 2012 and has since worked tirelessly to help injured people put their lives back together. He graduated from the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law and is a member of the Colorado and Wyoming Bar Associations.
Mr. Olson has also been a Super Lawyers Rising Star for five consecutive years. He believes in building people up and works hard to tell his clients’ stories.
When he isn’t working on a case, he enjoys mountain biking, fly fishing, and spending time with his family. You can work with him and his expert team when you call Olson Law Firm at (720) 730-4325.