What to do as the Passenger in a Car Accident | The Law Offices of G Turner Howard III

There are approximately 1,000 traffic fatalities in the state of Tennessee every year, with many more accidents occurring that don’t result in fatalities. If you happen to be a passenger in a vehicle that becomes involved in a traffic accident, there are a number of options available to you moving forward. For the most part, these options will depend on which driver in the accident is found to be at fault.

Of course, there is the possibility that there is no second vehicle involved in the accident, and in that case the driver of your vehicle will generally be considered to be at fault. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as a deer or another animal suddenly darting into the road and causing a collision. Your driver would not be considered to be at fault for such an event.

When you’re involved as a passenger in a motor vehicle accident, here’s what you should do first:

  • Check yourself, as well as others, for injuries or concussions, and call an ambulance if immediately if necessary. If you’ve been injured and feel you should be entitled to compensation, we recommend contacting a personal injury attorney to ensure you’re treated fairly from start to finish.
  • Call the police, so an accident report is filed. You should try and remember everything you can about the moments leading up to the accident and afterward.
  • If your vehicle driver is unable to do so, you should get details from the other driver about his/her insurance.
  • Do not discuss any details of the accident with the other driver. Your information should first be conveyed to your lawyer.
  • Wait for a determination on who was at fault for the accident.

Filing a claim against the driver

If the driver of your vehicle is determined to be at fault, you can file a claim against that person so you can receive medical benefits and coverage. Even if the driver is a friend, you can receive compensation for your injuries, for lost wages, and for pain and suffering. This may not be the case if you are related to the driver, because some states do not allow this. If the driver of the other vehicle is found to be at fault, you should have a straightforward claim to file against that person for medical coverage.

It is also possible to file a claim against both drivers in the accident, even if one is found to be more at fault than the other. In this case, you need to obtain the insurance information from both drivers, and proceed with a claim against both of their insurance providers. In the event other passengers were injured in the accident, all those who were injured would have to file a claim against whichever driver was found to be at fault for the accident. Thus, if a driver is only insured for $50,000 for personal injury and there are four people injured in the accident, all four of those people would have to split the $50,000 evenly, regardless of how much their respective injuries cost.

Some states have No Fault insurance, which means neither driver would be found at fault, and in this case you would file a Personal Injury Protection claim (also known as a “No Fault” claim) to be reimbursed for medical costs and lost wages. If both sides feel they were less responsible than the other for the accident, this would have to be settled in court before anyone is found to have primary responsibility and therefore liable to satisfy the claims of injured passengers.

When the passenger is partially liable

While it is rare, a passenger can be found at least partly liable for a traffic accident. This includes cases when the passenger grabs the wheel of the car and steers off course, or if a passenger distracts the driver and causes an accident to occur. In either of these two cases, the passenger’s reimbursement would be reduced by the percentage that he/she is found to be guilty of. For instance, if the accident were found to be 100% the fault of a specific passenger, that passenger would receive no compensation. Some states approach this differently, and allow no compensation at all to a passenger who was even partially responsible for an accident.

Get a competent attorney

At your very first opportunity, you should utilize the services of a skilled personal injury attorney. Don’t talk to anyone about the accident until you’ve had a conversation with your lawyer. Your lawyer will provide you with guidance throughout the entire process and ensure that you’re being fairly compensated for your injuries.


After spending his secondary years of study at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, G Turner Howard III earned his BA at Tulane University. A member of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, he received his law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Before becoming an attorney, he earned a Master’s and Doctor of Divinity at Andrews Theological Seminary and Columbia Theological Seminary. He also served as a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army in Vietnam. With more than 20 years of experience, his firm has helped clients receive millions of dollars for personal injury, and in many cases, much faster than they ever expected.
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