Motor vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of death in the United States, with millions of vehicle accidents resulting in more than 45.000 fatalities each year and more than 4.4 million injuries [1].

Car accidents occur under all kinds of circumstances and are due to many different causes. Even though a large percentage of victims are in the driver’s seat, it is not uncommon for passengers to also end up injured in a car driven by a friend or colleague, in a taxi, or even in a rideshare driver accident.

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries resulting from a car accident where you were a passenger, it is important to receive proper guidance concerning how you should approach this matter. As a passenger, you have rights that you should be aware of. It may be possible for you to receive compensation for the harm you suffered, your medical bills, and all other adverse consequences caused by someone else’s negligence.

Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado have extensive knowledge and expertise in car accident cases, and are committed to supporting all victims to get the compensation that they deserve.

Steps to Take after Suffering a Car Accident as a Vehicle Passenger

Safety First

Staying safe and getting medical attention is the absolute rule in all accident cases, including those involving car crashes. Regardless of whether you were the driver or passenger, the first thing you need to do is receive immediate medical attention and get checked out by a doctor, even if you think that you haven’t suffered a serious injury.

Your health and physical well-being should be your top priorities, so getting a full medical exam is an excellent idea. This is particularly important in car accidents, as “invisible injuries,” ranging from concussions, whiplash, or even internal bleeding and traumatic brain injuries, are sometimes not immediately obvious but may become life-threatening if not treated promptly.

At the same time, it is best to err on the side of caution and call 911 if it appears that anyone might be hurt or in danger, but also if any of the cars involved in the crash may be blocking the road and can’t be easily repositioned.

Communication Matters

Another thing you are highly advised to do is make sure to communicate with those involved in the car crash, take down their contact details, and share your own. This includes other drivers, passengers, or any third parties that may have been involved in the accident or who saw what happened, as they could become witnesses that will testify on your behalf.

According to Colorado law, any car accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage must be reported to the police [2]. Therefore, speaking to the responding police officers at the scene is also of the essence. Specifically, it is advisable that you give them your account of how the accident took place, as it is possible for passengers to have a different view of what happened than the driver—for example, you may have noticed that they ran a red light or changed lanes inappropriately. You should also use this opportunity to ask how you can obtain a copy of the official police report they will compile, as you will need this later for your claim.

Even though it can be difficult to keep control of everything and everyone, keep in mind that you should not be tempted to speak to the drivers involved in the accident, or their insurance providers and lawyers. Anything that needs to be conveyed to them will be best handled by your attorney, who will protect your interests from any potential insurance adjuster tricks.

Documenting the Accident

Taking pictures from various angles as soon as possible after your car accident and before the vehicles involved are removed can prove invaluable. Different people will have different recollections of what happened, so photographic evidence is a powerful tool in supporting your claim.

If you are in a position to do so, take some photos of your injuries and the damage caused to the vehicles, and focus on any other conditions that may have contributed to the incident (oil spills, obstacles on the road, etc.). Ideally, you should also try to include a visual of the surrounding area, as well as the license plates of the vehicles involved.

Determining Who Was at Fault

Colorado is what is called a “fault state”, which means that a driver who causes an accident will be liable for all damages caused to others. Hence, the most crucial aspect of a successful claim relating to a car accident is to correctly identify the party (or parties) who were at fault.

It is possible that the driver of the car in which you were a passenger was fully or partly at fault for the accident that led to your injuries. It is also conceivable that you were injured in a single-motorist accident, for example, if the driver of your car hit a lamp post. You may also have been injured in an accident caused by an at-fault driver in another car or even due to the negligence of several motorists.

As a passenger-victim, i.e. a third party harmed in the accident, you may be able to bring what is commonly referred to as a “third-party insurance claim” against one or more other at-fault drivers involved in the crash, including the driver of the vehicle in which you were traveling. In other words, you are not limited to filing a claim only against one driver, thus speaking to an experienced lawyer will enable you to have a better understanding of your rights and chances of success in terms of receiving compensation from those responsible for your injuries.

Considering Comparative Fault

Besides being a fault state, Colorado is also a comparative fault state, so you will need to consider whether it might be asserted that you contributed in some way to the accident. It is not common for passengers to be found liable for an accident since they normally have no control over the vehicle. Even so, it is plausible that the at-fault driver and their insurance adjuster might try to shift the blame onto you.

The comparative fault system applied in Colorado means that the amount of recovery may be reduced if it is found that the victim somehow contributed to the accident. Thus, things can get quite complicated when it comes to calculating and proving your claim. This is one of the main reasons why seeking legal assistance from an experienced personal injury attorney is highly recommended, including in cases when you were a passenger in a car accident.

Establishing what Damages You Can Claim

As a passenger injured in a car accident, the two things you will need to prove to receive adequate compensation for your injuries are liability and damages. Once the former is determined, it is imperative to ensure that you can also prove the nature and extent of the damages you have suffered.

Passengers injured in vehicle accidents generally have the right to seek economic but also non-economic damages. You may be entitled to compensation to cover the cost of your medical care and other expenses, including ambulance transport, doctor visits, rehabilitation, loss of wages and future income, but also for the pain, suffering, or loss in quality of life that may have been caused by the accident.

Your personal injury attorney will be in a position to properly investigate the circumstances of the accident, review your medical records, and collect all necessary information to calculate the total cost of your damages so that you can file an accurate claim.

Observing Formalities

Acting quickly after a car accident, therefore ensuring that all required steps are followed and required formalities are met is crucial for a successful outcome. You need to remember that, in addition to proving liability and damages and building a solid claim, you will need to keep in mind the statute of limitations for car accident cases.

According to Title 13 of the Colorado Revised Statutes [3], if you have suffered an injury caused by a car accident you must bring your claim within three years from when the accident happened or when you became aware of your injuries. Failure to do so may mean that you won’t be able to bring a legal claim at all.

While acting without delay is important, rushing to file a claim may not always be advisable, since a number of car crash-related injuries may not be discovered immediately after the accident. Depending on the particular circumstances of your case, it will be important to determine the right time for filing, as you need to make sure that you observe applicable time limits in a way that lets you have appropriate knowledge of your injuries.

At the same time, the three-year baseline for filing a claim is not necessarily applicable to all cases, as there are a number of exceptions to this rule that may either extend or shorten this deadline.

Contact Legal Help in Colorado

A seasoned personal injury lawyer who has successfully represented victims just like yourself will be able to advise you on a number of related matters and negotiate on your behalf with other parties. They will also provide you with the necessary guidance and support called for in situations like this.

Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado are committed to offering clear, professional advice in full confidence to injury victims from all walks of life. As we work on a contingency fee basis, you don’t have to worry about the financial aspect of things, as you will not have to pay us any fees until you receive your payment.

If you were a passenger injured in a car crash, contact Legal Help in Colorado today for a free consultation or call now (720) 664-9435, so we can discuss your case.

References

[1] https://www.asirt.org/safe-travel/road-safety-facts/

[2] https://law.justia.com/codes/colorado/2021/title-42/article-4/part-16/section-42-4-1606/

[3] https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/images/olls/crs2017-title-13.pdf