Unexpected automobile accidents are traumatic for both drivers and passengers. Each accident has different characteristics. Once people recover from the initial shock and disbelief, they begin to check for injuries.

Often, one driver caused the accident, but sometimes, drivers from different vehicles share part of the blame. Police will determine the ultimate liability from evidence at the accident site, tests administered to drivers for sobriety, and statements from both accident victims and any people who witnessed the accident.

Do passengers have rights in a vehicle accident?

Most drivers are familiar with reporting an accident to their insurance company, gathering data from other drivers and witnesses, as well as attending to any injuries.

For passengers, the options are less clear. Do passengers even have any rights in an accident? The answer is yes. Passenger injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages are no less important than those suffered by drivers. In the event of a passenger fatality, the family of the person can legally get help and advocate for compensation rights for their loved one.

What should passengers do after an accident?

Even if a passenger seems uninjured, adrenaline can mask injury pain. Passengers should always proceed “as if” they have sustained an injury. Here are actions they should take after a crash.

  • Passengers should collect evidence by taking cellphone pictures of the entire accident scene, including inside and outside of vehicles, the ground around the vehicles and license plate numbers.
  • If no one else calls the police, the passenger should do it. However, a passenger should not make a statement to the police about who is to blame for the accident.
  • It is important to go to the emergency room and get a complete checkout to make sure there are no hidden injuries. If the pain appears later in the day or week, the individual should return to the emergency room for further tests and request copies of all medical records.
  • If the injury requires emergency treatment at the scene and transportation to the emergency room, New York law allows the passenger to obtain help later, after he or she recovers enough to find out how to file a claim.
  • Passengers should obtain drivers’ insurance information and license details, then email this information, along with a full description of the accident, to themselves. The information should include the date, time, make/model of vehicles, and number of passengers in each vehicle.
  • As soon as possible after the accident, passengers should file a claim for medical and property damage, loss of work, and other compensation owed. They can file claims against more than one driver at a time if the total compensation available is not sufficient to cover the cost of their damages.

Passengers should never passively stand by after an accident; they must obtain proof in case they discover later that they received injuries that are more serious than they appeared. People should not be afraid to ask their own driver for the same information; even if the driver at fault is a family member of the passenger, the insurance must compensate all victims in an accident.