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Personal Injury 101: Passenger Rights in a Car Accident
Benjamin Kline, Esq. Jan 18, 2021 12:00:00 AM
As a passenger in a car accident in Minnesota, you have rights. You are entitled to seek payment for medical bills and lost wages that occur as a result of any injuries you received. Certain factors will determine how and from who you can seek compensation - such as who is at fault for the accident and whether you, a family member, or other close relation own an insured vehicle at the time of the accident. Knowing your rights and the differences between how drivers and passengers are treated is important to receiving the highest possible compensation for your claim.
Insurance Priority for Passengers under the Minnesota No-Fault Act
In Minnesota, the first avenue for pursuing financial recovery after a car accident is referred to as “no-fault.” The Minnesota No-Fault Act states that each injured person may potentially receive up to $20,000.00 for payment of medical bills and lost wages, even if they are at fault for accident. The process of determining whose insurance policy will be responsible for your no-fault expenses is governed through a priority set by law.
In most cases, the first priority is your own auto insurance, even if you were not driving at the time of the accident and even if your vehicle was not involved in the accident. If you did not own an insured vehicle at the time of the accident, the second priority would be the policy of a family member who lives with you and owns an insured vehicle, often referred to as a “resident relative.” The third priority is “occupied vehicle,” or the insurance of the vehicle that the injured person was riding in. If the injured person was a pedestrian or a cyclist, then the third priority would be the insurance of the vehicle that hit them. Minnesota also has an Assigned Risk Plan which may be able to provide coverage for people who are not covered by any of the higher priorities.
Liability Claims for Passengers
The second avenue for financial recovery is a claim against the person who is at fault for causing the accident. This part of your claim is called the “liability” portion. Often, insurance companies will fight over who is at fault, and sometimes multiple parties will share a percentage of the blame for the accident.
Unlike the drivers involved in a car accident, passengers are rarely found at fault since they were not in control of any vehicles at the time of the accident. Therefore, as a passenger, you are likely to have a claim against either the driver of the vehicle you were riding in, or the driver of the other vehicle. However, it is also possible to get caught in the middle of a fight for liability if the insurance companies covering the drivers cannot agree on who was at fault. This could delay your ability to seek compensation for your liability claim. This fight may also mean you will be asked to provide recorded statements to multiple insurers, attend an independent medical examination, or otherwise provide information to help determine the facts of the accident and the extent of damages.
Seeking compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company can be further complicated when the at-fault driver is a close relative like a parent or spouse. In Minnesota, you have the right to sue the at-fault driver of the vehicle you are in no matter how they are related to you. Unfortunately, this rather common situation means that you may need to file a lawsuit against your own relative in order to get the compensation that you are entitled to according to law.
For help navigating a car accident, dealing with insurance companies, and getting the full financial recovery that you are entitled to, please call our office at 651-493-0426 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.