Suffering an injury as a passenger in a car accident can be traumatic and disruptive to your health and finances. The good news is, as an injured passenger in Houston, TX, you can seek compensation for your losses with a personal injury claim or lawsuit. An experienced car accident attorney can investigate the accident, determine liability, calculate your damages, and negotiate with the insurance company to win you a full and fair settlement.
Can I Recover Injury Damages If I Was a Passenger in a Car Accident?
The first step in pursuing compensation for your injuries and other losses is to work out who was responsible for the accident. This may have been the driver of the vehicle you were in, or, in a collision involving two vehicles, it may have been the other driver.
Sometimes both drivers share fault for the accident because both were driving with some degree of negligence. For example, if the driver of your car was speeding when they struck another car that was making a left turn without indicating, both drivers share a degree of fault. In these situations, you might seek to recover compensation from the insurance companies of both drivers.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim or Lawsuit
Determining fault is usually best achieved with the help of an attorney, especially in more complicated accidents where the fault is shared. Once you’re clear on who bears legal responsibility for the accident and your injuries, the first step is usually to file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance provider. Your attorney will then gather evidence to prove the liability of the negligent party.
They’ll negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and seek to recover an out-of-court settlement payout that will fully compensate you for all of your losses. Most car accident cases settle out of court in this way. But occasionally it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit and try the case in court before a judge and jury. This ordinarily only occurs if the insurer is refusing to pay a settlement sufficient to cover the injured passenger’s damages in full.
Calculating the Damages You Can Seek to Recover
The term “damages” refers to the money you can legally seek to recover for each type of loss you’ve suffered. The bills for medical treatment and recovery are the most common form of damages in a car passenger injury case.
Further common damages include lost wages from missed work, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. Any loss you’ve suffered because of the accident should be included in your damages, so you can financially be made whole.
Medical Expenses: Present and Future
Passengers frequently suffer severe injuries. Head injuries, neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, and broken limbs are not uncommon among front-seat passengers. Passengers riding in the rear seats often also suffer injuries to their stomach, chest, pelvis, and internal organs. These injuries can sometimes be life-threatening, requiring extensive medical treatment, the total cost of which should ideally be recovered in your claim.
Some injuries require ongoing treatment that extends into the future as well: sometimes for years or even for life. In these extreme cases, your attorney will carefully calculate the full cost of future treatment, often with the help of medical practitioner experts. These experts may also testify in court if necessary to prove the full extent of your future medical damages.
Lost Wages: Present and Future
Recovering from an injury may have kept you from working for a period of time. Any wages you’ve lost during this period can also be sought in your damages. This may include missed salary or a lost hourly wage and also lost commissions, bonuses, promotions, paid leave, insurance contributions, and any other work or business-related benefit or perk you missed out on.
As with medical expenses, you may also be facing lost wages extending into the future if your capacity to work has been diminished by your injury. These future lost wages may also be calculated and sought in full, often with the aid of a vocational rehabilitation expert.
Other Common Damages
All out-of-pocket expenses you’ve been forced to pay as a result of the accident may also be included in your damages, and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, are also often included and recovered.
If you’ve experienced mental anguish, physical impairment, scars, disfigurement, or a general loss of enjoyment in life, you have a legal right to seek financial compensation for them all. Non-economic damages such as these can often make up a significant portion of a final settlement figure, but proving their value will also usually take a skillful car accident attorney.
Actions To Take Following Your Accident
As an injured passenger in a car crash, the actions you take in the direct aftermath of the accident will either strengthen or weaken your personal injury case. It’s important to take photos and videos of the accident scene, including skid marks on the road, injuries, and anything else that will later help to prove exactly what occurred. Also, collect statements and details from eyewitnesses and ask if they captured the accident on video.
Always ensure the police are called so that you can later collect the police report. If you’re seriously injured, your immediate priority should be to seek emergency medical attention. But even then, try to have someone you know gather this important evidence on your behalf. If you speak to a lawyer at once, they can often arrange this for you and even help with specialist medical health providers.
Seek Medical Attention and Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
After a seemingly mild car accident, some passengers feel fine and don’t bother to see a doctor. But it’s essential to always seek immediate medical attention. The adrenaline of an accident can sometimes temporarily mask pain and symptoms from some injuries like whiplash might not appear until hours, days, or even weeks later.
If you fail to see a doctor right after your accident, the insurance company can later refute the seriousness of your injuries. They might also claim that any injuries you’ve suffered were caused elsewhere. Proving your damages and recovering compensation is made far easier when you can show that you had immediate medical attention. For the same reason, follow all of your doctor’s instructions and attend all follow-up appointments without fail, keeping the medical records from each visit.
Consider Speaking to a Lawyer Before Contacting the Insurance Company
As an injured passenger, one mistake best avoided is talking to the insurance company without first seeking legal counsel. This is especially true if your injuries are severe and a potentially large settlement is on the line.
If an insurance company sees that you have a strong claim, they’ll often present you with a low initial settlement offer. It’s rarely wise to accept this first offer because, once you’ve done so, you won’t have another opportunity to make a second claim for the same accident.
How an Attorney Can Help Injured Car Accident Passengers
An experienced local personal injury attorney can ensure you begin your case on the right foot. They can make you aware of your full legal rights and calculate the maximum damages applicable to your case. They can gather evidence and retain expert witnesses, deal with the insurance company for you, negotiate hard on your behalf, and even represent you in court if it comes to a lawsuit.
If you need an experienced car accident attorney, contact Abraham Watkins today for a free consultation and case evaluation. We’re an award-winning law firm based in Houston, TX. For over 70 years, our seasoned attorneys have been helping the region’s injured citizens win full and fair compensation for their losses.