Can I Sue a Family Member for Damages After a Car Accident?

Dealing with insurance is bad enough. Dealing with your family member’s insurance can be even worse.

If you were a passenger in your parent’s car during a car accident, do you have to sue your parent for compensation? The Indiana Guest Statute protects family members from liability in some injury cases involving motor vehicles.

If you were an injured as a passenger in your parent’s car accident, the Guest Statute would prevent you from holding your parent liable for your injuries unless the car accident was caused by their willful or wanton misconduct.

What is Indiana’s Guest Statute?

driving

The Indiana Guest Statute protects drivers of motor vehicles from liability for injuries or death if they are transporting their:

  • parent
  • spouse
  • child or stepchild
  • sibling
  • or a hitchhiker

They are not excused from liability if the injuries or death was caused by their willfull or wanton conduct, or if the passenger paid for transportation.

One purpose of the Guest Statute is to prevent insurance fraud. If your parent’s negligence caused the accident, they’ll have to use their own insurance to cover repairs and medical bills, or pay out of their own pocket. The Guest Statute prevents you from recovering damages through your parent’s insurance and then sharing that money with your parents.

However, if the other driver was at fault for the injury, then the Guest Statute wouldn’t prevent you from filing a underinsured or uninsured claim with your parent’s insurance, if the at-fault driver had limited or no insurance coverage.

Were They Reckless or Negligent?

If the other driver is at fault for the car accident involving you and your parent, then you could hold them liable and collect damages from their insurance policy.

However, if your parent is at fault for the accident, you could only hold them liable for your injuries if they were reckless or willfully caused the accident. If they were negligent, you could not hold them liable.

Let’s say your parent didn’t stop at a red light and was hit by another driver who had a green light. Here’s how negligence and wanton conduct could look like in that situation:

Negligent driving: your parent was distracted and didn’t notice the light had turned red. Under the Guest Statute, you could not hold your parent liable for your injuries.

Reckless driving: your parent intentionally ignored the red light and drove full speed through the intersection. Because they willfully drove through the stoplight, they would be liable for your injuries.

If Your Parent Isn’t Liable, How Do You Recover Damages?

Indiana is a fault state, which means liability in a car accident is divided between the drivers involved in the crash. If a driver is found to be 51 percent or more at fault, their auto insurance must cover the damages of the other driver(s).

If your parent was less than 50 percent at fault for the car accident, then you could collect damages through the at-fault driver’s insurance by filing a personal injury claim. Recovered damages could include medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

If your parent was at fault because of willfull or wanton conduct, then you could hold them liable for your injuries. You would file a personal injury claim through your parent’s insurance company to recover any damages.

Unfortunately if your parent was merely negligent instead of reckless, you cannot recover damages through their insurance. Your health insurance may cover your medical bills. You will probably not be able to recover pain and suffering or lost wages.

You may be able to cover property damage if you had insurance for any property in your parent’s car. And if your parent was driving your car at the time of the accident, your auto insurance will hopefully cover the cost of repairs.

Help from a Personal Injury Attorney

Recovering damages after a car accident can be an emotional process, especially if the liable party is a family member.

If you were injured while riding as a passenger in a family member’s vehicle, a personal injury attorney can help determine whether or not the Guest Statute will affect your options for compensation. Please call Hensley Legal Group or contact us online for a free conversation about your claim.