If you’re involved in a Huntsville, TX or Rockdale, TX car accident, you need to know that it’s not just drivers who are entitled to recover damages. Even if you weren’t in the driver’s seat, Texas law provides ways for you to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Understanding your rights is the first step: the second is contacting a skilled personal injury attorney with local experience who can help you fight for the maximum compensation.
Recovering Damages If You Weren’t Behind the Wheel
If another party’s negligence caused an accident, passengers can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. This includes both instances where the driver of the vehicle they were in was at fault and when another vehicle caused the accident. In some situations, you might even be eligible to recover damages from a party not present at the accident.
Texas recognizes the principle of vicarious liability, which can make a third party liable for the actions of another in specific situations. Vicarious liability isn’t typical in personal injury, but it does come into play in certain situations, usually against parents, alcohol vendors, and employers.
For example, if an employee of a company injuries you in a car accident using a company vehicle within the scope of their employment, it may be possible to hold the employer liable. If a driver under 18 causes an accident, the parents may be liable. And in some cases where a drunk driver causes an accident, it can be possible to get compensation from an alcohol vendor if they were found to be in violation of Texas’ dram shop laws. Be sure to talk to your lawyer to get the help you need identifying all potentially liable parties after an accident.
Passenger Claims Against Multiple Parties
Things get complex when multiple parties are at fault in an accident. Texas follows a modified comparative fault system for personal injury, which means that a person’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault they bear for the accident. Any party may get compensation, but only if they are not more than 50% liable.
So, for example, if one driver is found to be 60% at fault and the other 40%, the driver 40% at fault can recover damages from the other driver, but the amount of those damages will be reduced by 40%. But what about passengers? In this situation, a passenger could potentially file claims against both drivers’ insurance policies. This allocation of fault doesn’t bar passengers from recovering, but it does affect the percentage of damages they can claim from each party.
Every driver in Texas is required to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. This includes $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 for total bodily injury if multiple people are injured, and $25,000 for property damage. As an injured passenger, if your injuries exceed these amounts, you may need to consider alternative avenues for compensation, such as a personal injury lawsuit.
While Texas law mandates that all drivers have insurance, the unfortunate reality is that not everyone complies. If you find yourself in an accident where the at-fault driver doesn’t have adequate insurance, or none at all, your recovery options might seem limited. You should talk with your personal injury attorney to discover all avenues of potential compensation and to have someone on your side to fight for your rights against insurance companies that may drag their feet or try to deny claims.
Partially Liable Passengers
Not all accidents are clear-cut when it comes to fault. Sometimes, a passenger might bear some responsibility, either for the accident or the severity of their injuries. For instance, if someone knowingly entered a vehicle with an intoxicated driver or didn’t wear their seatbelt, they could be considered partly at fault.
Texas’s comparative negligence rule applies here, meaning your compensation might be reduced in proportion to your fault. If you’re found to be 20% responsible for your injuries, for example, and your damages totaled $25,000, you would only be able to recover $20,000.
Shared Ride Services
The process of recovering damages can be more complicated when rideshares are involved. Typically, these services have liability insurance that covers their drivers and passengers. However, the coverage amount varies based on whether the driver was waiting for a ride request, on the way to pick up a passenger, or had a passenger in the car. There are many other potential complications that come into play when another driver is at fault.
There are scenarios where you might be indirectly involved in a car accident, not as a passenger but as a pedestrian. For example, you could be waiting by the street, and a car swerves to avoid another vehicle, hitting you in the process. Who is liable? Is it the driver who swerved, or the one who caused them to swerve? Both drivers could bear some responsibility, making it a bit more complicated for the injured party to recover damages. It’s not uncommon to find insurance companies in these situations trying to “pass the buck” to the other driver’s insurance, leaving you hanging.
If you’re a passenger in a rented car that gets into an accident, the process of claiming damages can be different and less clear-cut than with private vehicles. The rental agency’s insurance, the driver’s personal insurance, and any additional coverage purchased at the time of renting could all come into play.
Large Commercial Vehicles
Accidents with large commercial vehicles, like trucks or buses, tend to be more catastrophic due to their size and weight. For a passenger in a smaller vehicle involved in such an accident, or as a passenger on the commercial vehicle itself, things can get complicated quickly even as medical costs skyrocket.
Commercial vehicles often carry larger insurance policies, but the damages can also be extensive, especially as larger vehicles tend to cause multi-vehicle accidents, meaning the insurance may have to cover a lot of injured people and damaged property.
Moreover, the liability might not rest solely with the driver of the commercial vehicle. A private car may be responsible for causing an accident that involves a large commercial vehicle, which then causes immense property and personal damage which the private car’s insurance can’t possibly cover.
When the accident involves a government vehicle, such as a city bus or a police car, the process for claiming damages becomes different. Government entities have certain immunities and specific procedures you must follow to file a claim. There are also shorter deadlines to initiate a claim, making prompt action imperative.
In all the above scenarios, there is one consistent theme: having competent legal representation makes all the difference in the outcome of your claim.
Talk with a Huntsville, TX or Rockdale, TX Car Accident Attorney
Accidents are challenging, physically and emotionally, but even if you weren’t driving, you have rights and avenues to recover damages. The key to getting the compensation you need – and deserve – is having a highly experienced lawyer on your side. Reach out to Brian C. Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer right now for help.