Compensation for Passengers in Car Accidents

By Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicito

Injuries to Passengers in Car Accidents

Injuries to passengers in car accidents can frequently be more debilitating than those sustained by a car driver. This is because a car driver in control of a vehicle will be attentive to the traffic conditions around him or her and may often have a second or two to brace themselves prior to an impact – even if the instinct to tense is a subconscious decision prompted by his or her peripheral vision.

Being a passenger in a car accident generally puts an injured claimant in a very strong position legally but, as this page will explain, it is not always straightforward to recover compensation for car passengers in traffic accidents, or to ensure that you receive a fair and adequate settlement of compensation in relation to the strength of your car accident passenger claim.

Examples of Car Accidents involving Passengers

The most common example of a car accident in which a passenger may be hurt is when they are travelling in a car which is rear-ended by another vehicle – usually as a front seat passenger. Passengers in this scenario are likely to experience more severe symptoms of whiplash than a driver who has had an opportunity to brace against impact – especially as a front seat passenger in Ireland is more likely to be a female partner who will typically have weaker neck muscles than her male driver.

Not all car accidents involving passengers will concern a passenger in a vehicle which is in collision with a negligent road user, and there are several other scenarios in which it may be possible to claim compensation for being a passenger in a car accident. These include:-

  • A passenger in a car where the driver of the car is to blame for causing an accident – irrespective of whether another vehicle is involved.
  • A passenger in a car, who is injured due the car being involved in an accident attributable to the unsafe condition of the road
  • A passenger in a taxi, who could sustain an injury due to the negligent actions of the taxi driver or another road user

Many passengers in car accidents are hesitant to make car passengers in traffic accidents claims if a friend or family member was the driver of the car and he or she may have been partly or totally at fault for the car accident. However, while the driver concerned might lose their no claims bonus after a claim is made to their insurance company, your car accident passenger claim will not cost them anything else personally. The compensation payment that is awarded for injuries to passengers in car accidents will not be paid by the individual, but by his or her car insurance company.

Procedures to Follow after Being a Passenger in a Car Accident

The procedures which you can follow after being the passenger in a car accident are going to depend on the reason for the car accident, the severity of the injuries you have suffered and those sustained by the car driver.  At this stage in proceedings, you may have completed many of these procedures, but it is always in your best interests to cast an eye over the following list in case you have omitted something which could support your car accident passenger claim for compensation.

Your Health and Safety Always Comes First

Nothing is more important than your health and safety and if you – or anybody else who was travelling with you – were seriously injured in the car accident, you should have summoned an ambulance and called the Gardai. If the Gardai fail to attend the scene of the car accident, your call to them will still have been logged and can be used by your solicitor in your compensation claim for injuries to passengers in a car accident.

If less serious injuries were sustained, you should have still attended the nearest Accident and Emergency department or made an emergency appointment to see your GP at the earliest possible opportunity. Any unjustifiable gap between the date of the accident and when your injuries were recorded in your medical history may cause the negligent party to contest your passenger in a car accident claim.

Completing Post-Accident Formalities

In the most frequent scenarios, the exchange of names, addresses and insurance details will have been done by the drivers of the vehicles involved in the car accident. Make sure that you have copies of this information if you did not collect it personally at the time of your car accident because, after a traumatic experience, car passengers in traffic accidents do not always have the presence of mind to complete their own post-accident formalities.

If some of the information is missing or incorrect – or you were the passenger in a car accident in which the driver responsible for causing the accident left the scene without stopping – you should be able to utilise roadside cameras and CCTV to establish who the negligent party was once a report of your accident has been made to the Gardai. If the negligent driver is not traced, or found to be uninsured when he is located, claims for passengers in car accidents can be made against the Motor Insurers´ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).

Reporting Passengers in Car Accidents

If the Gardai did not attend the scene of your accident, every Garda station keeps a road traffic accident report book and, if the driver of the car in which you were travelling has not already done so, you should make a report to the Gardai of the car accident as soon as practically possible.

The report should include the names of those involved in the car accident, together with the car insurance details and registration numbers of the vehicles involved. The time, date and location of the accident should also be included in the report, and you should make sure you retain a copy of the entry in the road traffic report book to provide to your solicitor. If the driver of the car in which you were travelling has already made this report, obtain a copy from him or her for your own records.

Making Claims for Car Accidents involving Passengers

Claims for car accidents involving passengers are handled in the same way as those which involve drivers. Applications to assess injuries to passengers in car accidents should still be made to the Injuries Board Ireland, even though a solicitor will attempt to negotiate a swift and satisfactory compensation settlement with the negligent party´s insurance company before the Injuries Board have concluded their assessment.

The purpose of applying for an assessment of compensation for being a passenger in a car accident is that, should liability for your injuries be denied or it is impossible to negotiate a satisfactory settlement of your car accident passenger claim, you will need an “Authorisation” from the Injuries Board to pursue your claim in court. It is not often that claims for car accidents involving passengers are litigated in court however – by following a dual approach – if court action is necessary, you will not have to wait so long for your claim for a passenger in a car accident to be resolved.

How Much Compensation do Passengers in Car Accidents Receive?

It was mentioned near the top of the page that passengers in car accidents often sustain more severe injuries than car drivers because they do not have that second of opportunity to brace themselves prior to impact with another vehicle. In theory, this should mean that a car accident passenger claim for compensation would result in a higher level of compensation being awarded to a car passenger, but each claim for injuries to passengers in car accidents is assessed on its own merits.

In addition to being eligible to claim compensation for any physical injury you may have sustained, you will also be able to claim for the impact your injuries – both physical and psychological – have made to your quality of life. This means you should maintain a diary to record all the times you are unable to participate in day-to-day activities, leisure and social pursuits, and present your journal to a solicitor who will calculate how much compensation for loss of amenity you will be entitled to.

You will also be able to recover any loss of earnings, overtime and pension contributions and financial expenses you have incurred which are directly attributable to your accident. Therefore, if you were the passenger in a car accident who suffered exactly the same injuries as the car driver, how much compensation you both receive could vary significantly depending on what your profession was and how your incapacity affected your ability to enjoy a full and active life.

Car Accident Passenger Claims and Insurance Companies

You should not try to accelerate the resolution of your claim for injuries to passengers in car accidents by dealing with a car insurance company directly. Insurance companies (including the MIBI) have an agenda to reduce their costs as much as possible in order to increase their profits. If you inadvertently accepted an offer of car accident compensation from an insurance company, and it proved to be inadequate to cover your medical expenses or support your family, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more.

Car insurance companies frequently make direct approaches to injured parties when their policyholder has been responsible for causing an accident – often when you may be at your most vulnerable – and should you receive such a direct approach, you should always refer it to your solicitor for assessment.

Should you be tempted to accept the insurance company´s offer of compensation for injuries to passengers in car accidents because of short-term financial concerns, again speak with your solicitor. By admitting their policyholder´s liability for your injuries, your solicitor can now apply for interim payments of compensation until such time as your car accident passenger claim is satisfactorily resolved.

Legal Advice for Passengers in Car Accidents

As you will see from the above, being in a strong legal position to make claims for injuries to passengers in car accidents does not guarantee that you will receive a fair and adequate settlement of your compensation claim. Claims for car accidents involving passengers have a high potential for being under-settled, and it is therefore always in your best interests to seek legal advice when you have been injured as a passenger in a car accident due to somebody else´s negligence.

Many solicitors offer free independent and impartial advice, without any obligation on you to proceed with a claim for compensation for injuries to passengers in car accidents, and it is advisable that you take advantage of this free legal advice for car passengers in order to first establish that you have a car accident passenger claim for compensation which is worth your while to pursue, and then to determine the best way to handle your claim.

Summary

  • Passengers in car accidents can claim compensation if they are travelling as a passenger in a variety of scenarios
  • Compensation for injuries to passengers in car accidents is paid for by the insurance company of the negligence road user, local council or the MIBI
  • The treatment of injuries to passengers in car accidents takes precedence over claims for car passengers in traffic accidents
  • It is important, wherever possible, to independently collect names, addresses and insurance details of all other parties involved in the car accident
  • How much compensation passengers in car accidents will receive will depend on their individual circumstances
  • You should not try to accelerate car passenger injury claims by dealing directly with an insurance company and always seek legal advice.

It is important to note that each case is unique. If you have recently been a passenger involved in an accident and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim, you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.

Copyright © 2009-2013 Eoin Campbell

Eoin P. Campbell About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose primary professional experience is the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.