What to do if You’re a Passenger in a Car Accident

When most people think about traffic accidents, they think about the drivers of each vehicle. They want to know how Florida law applies to compensate each driver fairly for their losses.

But what happens when a passenger suffers an injury in a motor vehicle accident? Do they have a right to recovery from the at-fault driver? How do Florida’s no-fault rules apply? Will they need to work with a car accident attorney to recover? Here’s what you need to know if you’re a passenger in a car accident in Florida.

Your First Step Is to Summon the Police and Medical Attention

If you’re the passenger in a car accident in Florida, your first step is getting the emergency medical care that you need. It’s critical to document that you were injured in the crash, and emergency medical treatment is the ideal way to identify your injuries. You have only a 14-day window to seek medical treatment after a car accident in Florida to collect PIP benefits.

Related: Do You Need to File A Report for A Minor Car Accident?

In addition to summoning medical responders, it’s also critical to summon the police to the accident. You need the police to conduct an investigation. The police can help you collect insurance information for both drivers. You need the insurance information to file your claim. Police also often do vital work to preserve evidence and determine who caused the accident.

Determine Whose Coverage Applies

Florida uses a no-fault system for minor car accidents. Florida’s system requires all drivers to carry their own personal injury protection coverage or PIP insurance.

The purpose of this requirement is to prevent minor accidents from ending up in the courtroom. Instead, each person looks to a PIP insurance policy to cover their own losses without considering fault.

passenger in car accident settlement

What If You’re the Passenger?

You don’t have to purchase insurance to be a passenger in someone’s vehicle. But you might still have PIP insurance in your own name if you’re a passenger in someone else’s vehicle. Even if you don’t have your own insurance policy, you may still recover PIP benefits from someone else.

When you’re a passenger in a vehicle, you can recover from your own policy or someone else. You move down a list of priorities to find the policy that applies. Florida law 627.733 gives the list of priorities for what PIP policy applies when you’re the passenger in an accident in Florida.

Look At Your Own Policy

The first place to look for recovery when you’re a passenger in a Florida car accident is your own insurance policy. If you’re a passenger in a vehicle and you have your own insurance policy, it’s your own policy that applies first. You contact your own insurer and file a claim for your own PIP benefits.

Example: Jose is driving a vehicle. Addy is Jose’s passenger. Another driver, Pat, strikes Jose’s vehicle. Addy suffers minor injuries totaling $3,000. Addy is a car owner, and she has her own PIP insurance. Addy files a claim with her own insurer to recover for her $3,000 in damages.

Look At Your Family Member’s Policy

When you’re a passenger in a car accident in Florida, and you don’t have your own insurance policy, the next place to look is for your family member’s policy. The family member must live in your household. If you’re not insured, but your parent, sibling or other family member that you live with is insured, their PIP insurance should pay your benefits. That’s the case even when your family member isn’t involved in the accident.

Example: Jose is driving a vehicle. Addy is Jose’s passenger. Another driver, Pat, strike’s Joe’s vehicle. Addy suffers minor injuries totaling $3,000. Addy doesn’t own a car. But she lives with her parents and brother. Addy’s mother owns a vehicle, and the mother has PIP insurance. Even though Addy’s mother wasn’t in the car at the time of the accident, Addy can look to her mother’s insurance policy for PIP benefits.

Look At The Driver’s Policy

If the passenger doesn’t have PIP insurance and the passenger’s household family members don’t have a PIP insurance policy either, the next place to look is at the driver’s insurance policy. You look at the insurance policy of the person whose vehicle you’re in at the time of the accident. Their PIP policy should pay for your losses in the event that there isn’t a closer insurance policy to cover your losses.

Example: Jose is driving a vehicle. Addy is Jose’s passenger. Another driver, Pat, strike’s Joe’s vehicle. Addy suffers minor injuries totaling $3,000. Addy doesn’t own a car. No one in her entire household owns a car. Jose’s PIP insurance is the insurance policy that should apply to cover Addy’s losses.

You Can’t Recover Twice

There may be more than one insurance policy that could provide PIP coverage. But you can’t recover twice. If you have $3,000 in damages, that’s the amount that you recover. The goal is to make you whole for your losses.

What Can I Do If PIP Doesn’t Pay?

If the PIP insurance provider doesn’t pay for your losses like they should, you can bring a claim against the insurance company to collect fair compensation. You may need to bring a claim against your own insurer, your family’s insurer or the driver’s insurer. Your attorney can help you evaluate your case to determine which policy should apply and how to bring your claim.

Related: Understanding Bad Faith Laws in Your Car Accident Claim

What About Serious Injuries?

If you sustain serious injuries as a passenger in a Florida car accident, Florida’s no-fault rules don’t apply. You may be able to go outside of Florida’s no-fault laws and bring a claim against the at-fault driver. Your attorney can help you determine if your case qualifies and help you strategize for the best way to bring your case.

How Can A Car Accident Attorney Help?

Florida’s no-fault laws can be confusing. At Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, we are ready to help you sort it all out and fight for your rights. Our legal team can help you pursue your claim to the fullest extent of the law. There’s no question too small as we help you navigate Florida’s complex no-fault laws.

If you were a passenger in a vehicle involved in a Florida car accident, call us at (813) 333-6666 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case evaluation. There is no fee unless we win.

About the Author

Jack G. Bernstein, ESQ.

For more than 35 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.