If you have been involved in an Orange County accident as a passenger and suffered injuries, you may be entitled to compensatory damages. Filing a claim and recovering damages as a passenger is different from recovering compensation as a driver involved in the crash. This is why you will typically need the help of an Orange County car accident attorney to recover compensation.
When seeking damages as a passenger, you must realize that you are also under a legal duty of care as the passenger in a vehicle. This affects the determination of liability in the crash and can also have an impact on your claim to damages.
Duty of Care of Passenger
As a passenger, you are expected to uphold a certain duty of care when traveling in a vehicle. Since you are not the one operating the vehicle, your duty of care primarily pertains to your own safety. Such duty of care may cover:
Use of Seatbelt
If you are traveling in a vehicle as a passenger, you are expected to wear a seatbelt. Failure to do so means that you didn’t uphold the duty of care. When you later file a claim for damages, an insurer can use this against you to turn down your claim or offer a significantly reduced payment.
Traveling With an Intoxicated Driver
If you suspect or know for certain that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicant, you are under a duty of care as a passenger not to travel with the driver. If you still travel with an intoxicated driver anyway, you are held in breach of this duty of care.
Responding to Danger
If you see or know for sure that there is danger up ahead, or if you sense some imminent danger to your person or the vehicle you are traveling in, you must respond to this. Examples of such danger may include reckless driving on the part of the driver, vehicle malfunctions, or any external conditions. Such a response could be in the form of trying to have the vehicle stopped, alerting the driver, or taking any other such measures.
California Laws on Passenger of Duty of Care
California laws specify the extent of your duty of care as a passenger. This duty of care is defined in California Civil Jury Instructions 711. As per this instruction, you can expect as a passenger that a driver will use reasonable care in operating the vehicle. You are not expected to keep an eye on the road conditions in search of possible danger. However, if you somehow do become aware of any such danger, you must take reasonable steps to avert it.
This law can be broadly interpreted, especially when it comes to “taking reasonable steps.” If you file for damages as a passenger, the insurance company may argue that you were aware of a danger but failed to act. You will need a qualified lawyer by your side to argue in your favor and demonstrate that maximum liability rests with the driver of your own vehicle or another driver who caused the crash.
California is a pure comparative fault state. This means that your amount of damages is reduced by the percentage of your fault. If you are 50% at fault, for instance, and your damages are calculated at $10,000, you will receive only $5,000.
The insurance company may use this to its advantage by citing the lack of seatbelt use or other acts on your part to have your payout reduced. With the help of a lawyer, you can counter any unfair objections from the insurer and make sure you secure a fair settlement.
How Can an Orange County Car Accident Attorney Help?
If you are seeking damages in a passenger car accident claim, you will first need to identify who the liable party is. In some cases, the driver of your own vehicle can be held liable for damages. In other situations, another driver who collided with your vehicle or otherwise caused your vehicle to run into an accident can be held responsible. In such a case, you will need to file a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault driver.
Here at the Crockett Law Group, our attorneys can help you with identifying the liable party and seeking the maximum amount of compensation for your losses. We also negotiate with the insurance companies on behalf of crash victims to ensure that the insurer doesn’t act in bad faith. Reach out to us today to discuss your Orange County car crash claim with our attorneys.