Even though being a passenger in a car accident would generally put the victim in a very strong position as regards the law, injury claims for passengers in car accidents are not always straightforward.
Injuries sustained by a passenger in a car accident can often more incapacitating than those suffered by a car driver. The reason behind this is that a car driver will be more attentive to the traffic conditions and may have a second or two more to prepare for impact.
This fact is not always recognised by plaintiffs or acknowledged by the insurance companies who have responsibility for settling claims for compensation from passengers injured in a car accident. Consequently, it can be in your best interests to seek legal advice before applying to the Injuries Board for an assessment of your claim or considering an unsolicited offer of passenger injury compensation from an insurance company.
Examples of Injuries Sustained by Passengers
A rear-end car accident which results in a front seat passenger sustaining a whiplash injury is a common example of a car accident in which a passenger is hurt. Their symptoms of whiplash are likely to be worse than the drivers who, as previously mentioned, would have had the opportunity to prepare for impact. This is especially true of female passengers, whose neck muscles tend to be weaker.
Aside from when the car in which the passenger is travelling comes into collision with a negligent road user, there are numerous other examples of injuries sustained by passengers in car accidents. These include, but are not restricted to:
- The driver of the car the passenger was travelling in being responsible for the accident – regardless of the involvement of another vehicle.
- The passenger in a car being hurt because the car was involved in an accident caused by poor road conditions.
- A taxi passenger suffering an injury that stemmed from the negligent actions of the taxi driver or another road user.
Victims involved in a car accident may be reluctant to pursue injury compensation for car accidents if a friend or family member is the driver responsible for the accident. However, it must be stressed that while the driver may lose their no claims bonus if a claim is made against them, the settlement of your claim will not be paid by them personally. The settlement of compensation for passengers injured in a car accident is covered by the driver´s insurance company.
What to Do After a Car Accident Occurs
The actions you take after being a passenger injured in a car crash will be determined by the cause of the accident, and the severity of the injuries sustained by you and the driver. You may have completed some of the formalities indicated below, but it would be in your best interest to recheck the list in case you neglected to perform an important step that you should have taken which could support your passenger car accident claim.
Prioritising your Health and Safety
The most important action to take was to call an ambulance and the Gardai if the accident you were involved in was a serious one. If the Gardai failed to turn up at the scene of the accident, your call to them will be filed and you will be able to use the record if necessary to support any legal action.
If you suffered a minor injury, it is important that you visited a hospital Accident and Emergency department, or least made an emergency appointment to see your GP at the first opportunity possible. If there is an unjustified delay in seeking medical attention, any future passenger in a car accident claim could be challenged by the negligent party’s insurers.
Carrying Out Appropriate Post-Accident Formalities
It is always a good idea to exchange the names, address and insurance details of those involved in an accident, even when you believe the driver of the vehicle in which you were travelling has done it already. Ensure you have copies of this information if you did not gather it yourself when the accident occurred.
If some of the information has been misplaced or is incorrect – of if you were a passenger in a car accident from which the driver to blame fled from the scene without stopping – it is possible to use roadside cameras and CCTV to help determine the identity of the negligent driver after a report of your accident has been submitted to the Gardai. Compensation for passengers injured in a car accident can be claimed against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) if the negligent driver cannot be traced or is found to be uninsured when he or she is located.
Car Passenger Injury Claims and Garda Reports
Every Garda station maintains a road traffic accident report book. If the Gardai did not attend the scene of your accident, it is recommended that you visit your local Garda station and (if the driver of the car has not yet done so) make a report to the Gardai of the accident at the earliest opportunity possible.
In the report should be the names of the involved parties, car insurance details and registration numbers of the vehicles involved, along with the time, date and location of the accident. It is important you retain a copy of the entry in the road traffic report book. If the driver of the car already made the report, make sure that you obtain a copy from him or her.
Making Injury Claims for Passengers in Car Accidents
Injury claims for passengers in car accidents are dealt with in the same way as claims for drivers. An application for the assessment of compensation for passengers injured in a car accident should be made to the Injuries Board Ireland.
If consent is declined from the negligent driver´s insurance company to conduct the assessment – or the assessment of your claim is not agreeable to yourself or the insurance company – the Injuries Board will issue you with an “authorisation” to pursue your claim in court. Court action is often unnecessary when making a claim for a passenger injured in a car accident, as settlements can be negotiated out of court. You are advised not to attempt an out of court settlement without seeking legal advice.
Settlements of Compensation for a Passenger in a Car Accident
As mentioned before, passengers in car accidents frequently suffer injuries more severe injuries than drivers as they do not often have the advantage of road awareness. It would be wrong to assume this would mean a claim for a passenger injured in a car accident would be settled for more, as each car accident claim is evaluated on its own merits.
Settlements are usually based on the extent of an injury and its likely permanence. In some cases, claims can also include the effect a plaintiff´s injuries – both physical and emotional – have had on their quality of life. It is recommended that all accident victims maintain a diary to record the times when an injury prevents or inhibits an everyday task or leisure/social activity, so it is possible to assess any loss of amenity.
Plaintiffs may also be able to recover any loss of earnings, overtime and pension contributions, and other financial costs that have been experienced and which can be directly attributed to the accident. Consequently, should a driver and a passenger suffer the same injuries, it is highly likely that the individual settlements the compensation will vary considerably.
Injury Claims and Insurance Companies
The purpose of insurance companies is to make a profit. Consequently, they can attempt to bypass the Injuries Board process and offer victims of car accidents low compensation settlements. If a potential plaintiff in a car passenger compensation claim inadvertently accepts such a low unsolicited offer, and it later proves to be an insufficient amount to pay for medical treatment or support their family, the plaintiff cannot return to the insurance company and ask for more.
Should you ever be approached by an insurance company with an unsolicited offer of compensation – which is usually shortly after an accident has occurred and when you are at your most vulnerable – it is in your best interest to seek legal advice about the best way to deal with the offer.
One advantage of an unsolicited offer from an insurance company is that the insurer is essentially admitting their policyholder’s liability. If funds are required immediately to pay medical expenses or support your family it may be possible to organise interim payments of compensation until your car passenger injury claim is resolved satisfactorily.
Legal Advice about the Consequences of Car Accidents
As you have seen from the points raised above, passengers who have sustained injuries in a car accident are not necessarily guaranteed a reasonable and satisfactory settlement of their injury claims for passengers in car accidents. There is a possibility that – is liability is admitted – injury claims have the potential to be under-settled. Therefore, potential plaintiffs are advised to seek professional legal advice before taking any course of action.
Car Passenger Compensation Claims: A Summary
- Medical treatment should be a priority over injury claims for passengers in car accidents.
- Car accident victims who were passengers can claim compensation in a number of different scenarios.
- Insurance companies pay compensation to passengers injured in car accidents – not the negligent road user, local council or MIBI.
- When possible, it is important to gather names, addresses and insurance details of all other parties involved in the car accident – even if the driver of your car may have already done it.
- The value of compensation for passengers in car accidents depends on the individual circumstances of the potential plaintiff.
- It is not advised to accept compensation offers from insurance companies before seeking professional legal advice.
No two injury claims for passengers in car accidents are alike. If you have recently been injured in an accident and believe that you may have a claim against the negligent party, seek legal advice at the first practical opportunity.