If you are a passenger in an Indiana car wreck, you have a right to file a claim against the at-fault driver whether that’s the driver of the vehicle in which you were traveling or that of another vehicle involved in the wreck. However, some factors prevent you from filing.
For instance, Indiana Code 34-30-11 – commonly referred to as the Guest Statute – establishes that you cannot file a claim for damages against the driver if the driver is your parent, spouse, child/stepchild, brother, sister, or picked you up as a hitchhiker, and the driver did not receive payment for transporting you. An exception to this Guest Statute is if the driver displayed wanton or willful misconduct.
In other circumstances, though, you can file a claim against whichever of the drivers is responsible for the accident and your injuries.
Which Driver Is Liable for My Injuries?
The at-fault driver is ultimately liable for the injuries you suffer. Your attorney and any insurance companies involved must establish fault of each driver. Once you know which driver is at fault, you can file your claim and/or lawsuit against the driver.
However, you need to understand that as a passenger your comparative fault will also be considered with questions such as:
- Did you contribute to the wreck in any way, such as distracting the driver or causing the driver physical harm?
- Did you wear a seat belt?
- Did you know of an unsafe condition before getting in the car, such as the driver being under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
- Did you see a doctor right away? (You should, no matter how minor your injuries seem as some injuries may not be apparent right away. Delay looks suspicious to insurance companies, so establish a medical file immediately after the accident.)
The answers to these questions will help determine what damages, if any, you recover. If you are at fault in any way, your damages will be reduced by that corresponding percentage. So if you suffered $20,000 in damages but you were 20 percent comparatively negligent because you were distracting the driver, your damages are reduced 20 percent and you recover $16,000.
If you are 51 percent or more at fault – such as if you grabbed the steering wheel to cause the vehicle to veer off the road, to use an extreme example – you cannot recover damages.
Meanwhile, your own uninsured motorist coverage may cover you if the driver does not have insurance.
Should I Call a Lawyer?
Indiana Code Section 34-11-2-4 gives you two years to file a claim for personal injury. Make sure you meet this deadline and follow all other rules for filing your claim. If you have been seriously injured, don’t make the mistake of talking to an insurance adjuster without an attorney’s legal counsel, and don’t accept anything without first talking to a lawyer.
Call Hensley Legal Group to set up a free consultation about filing a claim as an injured passenger after an Indiana car wreck.