It is often the case that those who are passengers in cars, rather than the driver, are those that sustain the most serious injuries in car accidents and collisions. This may seem counterintuitive, though it is because the driver of the vehicle will usually be paying more attention to the road and other vehicles – as such, they may have an extra second or so to prepare for an upcoming collision, compared to the potentially unaware passenger. The differential second to prepare may seem inconsequential until one considers subconscious reflexes.
However, it is not always easy for a passenger to claim compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident, though they are generally in a good legal position.
Situations in Which the Passenger may be Injured
In Ireland, the most common instance in which a passenger tries to recover injury compensation is when their car is rear-ended by another vehicle. The victims tend to be female, as in Ireland the male partner is more likely to drive when a couple is travelling together. In this, the passenger is doubly disadvantaged and as such more likely to sustain worse whiplash injuries. Being female, the passenger is more likely to have weaker neck muscles, and as a passenger they have less opportunity to brace themselves – as described above.
However, there are other common instances in which the passenger will be able to claim compensation. Not all of these will involve another vehicle. For example, the passenger may be able to recover compensation should the driver of the vehicle in which they are travelling is negligent. Additionally, the accident may not be the fault of any driver, but attributable to road conditions. Those riding in taxis may also be able to claim for compensation.
It is often the case that the passenger knows the driver of the car, and as such may be hesitant to make a claim for compensation against them. With this in mind, it is important to note that whilst the negligent driver will likely have to pay higher insurance premiums, and lose any no-claims bonuses, they will not incur any other personal cost. The insurance company will pay any resulting compensation settlement, not the negligent driver.
Claiming Car Accident Compensation
Exactly how a claim for compensation is made for passenger compensation will depend on the nature of the accident and resulting injuries. The procedure is similar to that followed by the drivers of the vehicles, with the initial application being made to the Injuries Board Ireland for assessment. However, once you engage a solicitor, he or she will try to settle the claim through negotiations.
Even so, this step is critical should negotiations break down. Without it, you will not be able to receive “authorisation” from the Injuries Board to seek compensation through the courts. Though this is particularly uncommon in compensation claims concerning car passengers, should a court hearing be required, the early application to the Injuries Board will ease the process.
Compensation Settlements for Passengers
As has been previously detailed, passengers will often sustain worse injuries than his or her accompanying driver. This leads to the expectation that they will receive higher settlements of compensation, though it should be noted that the claims are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The claim for compensation need not only concern physical injuries – a passenger is also entitled to claim for the impacts on their life an injury has had, as well as psychological damage incurred. It is often recommended that the victim of a car accident keep a diary to record everyday activities, particularly noting any instances where these have been impacted by the injuries. The diary can then be used in negotiations to assess compensation settlements.
Additionally, should you suffer any loss of earnings because of the injury, or incurred any other form of financial loss, you may claim for this as part of the compensation settlement.
The Role of the Insurance Company
Though it may be tempting, when seeking compensation it is best not to approach insurance companies directly with your claim. These companies – and the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland – do not have your best interests in mind, but rather want to reduce their costs to a minimum. If you accept an offer of compensation, then realise it is adequate to compensate for all of the medical costs or loss of earnings, you cannot seek another settlement.
You may be directly approached by an insurance company following an accident, though if this happens it is always best to refer the offer to a solicitor for assessment. If you feel that you should accept the settlement to alleviate immediate financial pressures, your solicitor should be able to apply for interim settlements of compensation if the insurance company has conceded their client’s liability.
Advice for Passengers in Car Accidents
Though the passengers of cars involved in accidents have a strong legal advantage, it does not necessarily mean that when they claim for compensation they will receive a fair settlement. The claimant is most at risk for receiving a settlement that is too low and not reflective of their injuries. As such, it is always best to seek legal counsel before commencing any legal action.
Injury Claims for Passengers in Car Accidents: A Summary
There are a number of situations in which the passenger of a car involved in an accident may claim compensation. Typically, the passenger sustains worse injuries than the driver of the vehicle, though this is not necessarily a guarantee of a fair settlement of compensation. The insurance company may approach the victim with an offer of compensation, though it is important that this is referred to a solicitor for consideration before acceptance, as it will not usually be as high as the claimant’s situation deserves.