What to Do If You Are a Passenger in a Car Accident in Maryland

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Car accident injury claims can be fraught and complicated in Maryland. Insurance companies know you can lose the ability to claim money for your injuries if you were even a small degree to blame for a wreck. What to do if you’re a passenger in a car accident in Maryland is often more straightforward. Passengers are seldom liable for their injuries because they are not behind the wheel.

Car accidents in Maryland cause severe injuries, especially if the vehicles involved are traveling at excessive speeds. If you are a passenger in an accident, you are just as likely to be seriously injured as any driver involved. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of their legal rights or options if they suffered an injury as a passenger. Except in exceedingly rare occasions, passengers are not held responsible for causing a car accident. Therefore, our law firm can concentrate on your compensation instead of your liability. Below, our experienced Baltimore car accident attorney will review the options available to a passenger injured in a car crash.

Although the issue of liability is more straightforward when it is a passenger that is injured, these cases can still be tricky, especially where more than one driver caused the accident that left a passenger with injuries. Our Baltimore car accident lawyer will examine your claim and advise you on how to proceed. Contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras as soon as possible after the wreck.

How Dangerous are Maryland’s Roads for Passengers?

Although fewer passengers lose their lives than drivers every year,  dozens are killed and thousands suffer injuries. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s 2017 report, 315 drivers and 80 passengers died in Maryland in 2016. The report points out 50,864 people were injured on the highways of Maryland in 2016.

Passengers are vulnerable to cars, vans, and trucks broadsiding the vehicles they are in at intersections. They often suffer serious injuries in single-vehicle crashes where a car veers off the highway or rolls over.

What Rights Do You Have as a Passenger in a Car Accident in Maryland?

All drivers should have third party insurance in Maryland. It’s the law. If you are traveling in a car that’s struck by another vehicle, you can make a claim against the insurance policy of the at-fault driver. Passengers may also make claims against the driver of the car they were traveling in if he or she caused a crash. In some cases, their driver may have been culpable as well as another driver. The passenger has potential claims against both drivers.

The fact you were a passenger and not to blame for the accident does not mean the insurance company will be easy to deal with. The insurer may delay payment or try to make you accept a sum that’s not enough to compensate you for your injuries. Occasionally, the insurance company will deny a claim stating you were partially to blame. Hire a Baltimore personal injury lawyer experienced in car accident claims to help you with all these scenarios.

Passengers often get injured in car crashes caused by friends. You are unlikely to be traveling in a complete stranger’s car unless you are in a rideshare car or a taxi.  If this is the case, you can contact an experienced Baltimore taxi accident lawyer to help you through this. This can be a tricky situation. Your friend who drove off the highway into a tree causing your broken ribs says if you sue, her insurance premiums will go up. She offers an informal arrangement to pay for your medical treatment. It’s important to put your loyalty to your friend to one side and your health first. Your friend’s offer is unlikely to be legally binding and it may not cover additional damages like pain and suffering that will factor into a lawsuit.

You may also run out of time to sue and never get any money from a friend. Let a Maryland personal injury lawyer handle these scenarios.

An Attorney Can Help You Determine Who is Actually at Fault for the Crash that Caused Your Injuries

In personal injury lawsuits following car accidents, passengers typically have an easier time than the drivers involved in the crash. This is because, unlike drivers, passengers are not concerned about proving they were not at fault. Maryland is an “at-fault” state, so the person who caused the car accident is responsible for any losses, such as injuries, lost income, and property damage.

For instance, if three cars collide at an intersection, one of the drivers will probably be found liable. It does not matter to the passenger which one of the three drivers caused the accident. Likewise, in a single-vehicle car accident, the driver is most likely responsible for any damages or injuries that occur.

Any compensation amount a passenger is awarded would be proportionally split based on the percentage of fault each driver was assigned. However, if one driver’s insurance is insufficient to cover their respective portion, you could recover the difference from the other driver. Additionally, as a passenger, you could file a claim against your insurance provider to cover any medical expenses or costs resulting from the car crash. Our knowledgeable Baltimore car accident attorney will thoroughly review the facts in your case to advise the best course of action. We will also help you with communicating with any insurance company.

Can a Passenger Be at Fault for a Car Accident in Maryland?

In the majority of car accidents, one of the drivers involved in the crash will be found liable for causing the accident. Sometimes, two or three drivers could be found to have contributed to the crash. Maryland follows the “contributory negligence” doctrine regarding liability in car accidents. Under this legal doctrine, you are prohibited from recovering damages if you contributed to an accident.

In rare cases, a passenger could be held liable or partially liable for a crash. The passenger could get into an argument with the driver and even grab the steering wheel. He or she could be drunk, rowdy, or distracting. Insurance companies have also denied claims when a passenger has accepted a ride with a clearly intoxicated driver who has then injured the passenger in a crash.

How does “contributory negligence” affect a passenger? It generally doesn’t. Except, in a very narrow set of circumstances, passengers are usually not found to have caused or contributed to a car accident. Merely talking with a driver does not arise to negligent conduct. To have contributed to, or caused, a car accident, a passenger would have to have engaged in significantly reckless behavior, such as covering the driver’s eyes from the backseat or forcibly turning the steering wheel.

Additionally, while not wearing a seatbelt could contribute to a more severe injury, it did not contribute to the cause of an accident. While you could be cited for a seatbelt violation under Maryland law, you will not be held as a contributing party to a car accident for failing to protect yourself.

The behavior of a passenger has to be extreme to invalidate a claim. The driver is in charge of the car. Normal conversation from passengers can be distracting but will not invalidate a claim. However, a passenger who encourages a driver to watch a video or check out a social media post on his phone might lose his right to claim for injuries caused by a distracted driver.

Can Passengers Who Fail to Wear Seatbelts Make Injury Claims in Maryland?

Maryland state law requires all motorists to wear seatbelts. Although passengers who fail to buckle up break the law, Maryland does not consider the failure to wear a seatbelt to be contributory negligence. The law considers the accident to be caused by the actions of the driver, not the passenger’s failure to wear a seat belt even though it may have exacerbated his injuries. Some states cut damages to motorists who don’t buckle up.

Passenger Injuries Caused by an Uninsured Driver

If you are a passenger in a Maryland uninsured motorist accident or the driver who caused the accident is a hit-and-run driver who leaves the scene and is not traced, the passenger can make a claim on his or her uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance coverage. The claim is made against his own insurance company. Our Baltimore car crash lawyer will advise you about UM/UIM coverage.

In some cases, two types of uninsured coverage are available to the victim; the passenger’s own insurance and the insurance on the car he was traveling in.

Can Injured Passengers Sue Family Members or Friends in Maryland?

The situation is more complicated if a close family member caused a crash that left you injured. Some insurance policies exclude family members. Theoretically, the driver who caused the crash could benefit from the payout to a household member.

In the 1985 case of Jennings v. Government Employees Insurance, the Court of Appeals of Maryland found that the “household exclusion” clause of a car liability insurance policy was invalid because it was contrary to the public policy expressed in Maryland’s compulsory auto liability insurance law.

Although the Court of Appeals appeared to strike down the “household exclusion,” the next year the judges suggested this override only applied to mandatory limits, meaning insurance company liability In family passenger claims is just $20,00 per person and $40,000 per accident.

Legislation enacted in 2005, under 19-504.1 of the Insurance Article requires insurance companies to offer liability coverage for claims made by family members in the same amount as coverage for non-family claims under the insurance policy.

Suing for Rideshare Passenger Injuries

Increasing numbers of people take ride-hailing services, primarily Uber and Lyft. While the insurance situation was initially precarious for passengers because rideshare drivers are private contractors, both Uber and Lyft now have $1 million policies to protect injured riders.

The policies also have $1 million in uninsured motorist coverage if, for instance, your Uber driver is unknown. Don’t expect Uber and Lyft to make an accident claim straightforward for you. Talk to our Baltimore Uber and Lyft accident lawyer, Randolph Rice, for rideshare injury claims.

Talk to Our Maryland Car Accident Attorneys About Passenger Injury Claims

Passengers are seldom at fault for their injuries but passenger claims can be muddled and complicated in Maryland, especially when multiple parties are involved or a driver cannot be traced. At the Law Office of Randolph Rice, our Maryland car accident attorney has been helping passengers to make claims for years. Please call us at (410) 431-0911.


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