Many of the victims of car accidents in San Diego are passengers, not drivers. They often suffer catastrophic injuries or death through no fault of their own.
In California, passengers have the right to be compensated for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, it can be complicated to determine who caused the crash and how to file a claim with the proper insurance company unless you have the assistance of an experienced San Diego car accident attorney.
Steps to Take if You're in a San Diego Car Collision
You need to follow a detailed process after the crash to protect your health and legal right to compensation. Here's what you should do:
- Seek medical care. If you suffered any obvious injuries, you need to obtain immediate medical care. And even if you don't believe you're injured, or that apparent injuries aren't serious, see a healthcare provider right away. You might not exhibit symptoms yet but still be injured. Documentation of your condition and a detailed prognosis to protect your health and avoid disputes with an insurance company about the cause of your injuries.
- Take pictures. This includes damage to the vehicles, the accident scene, your injuries, and anything else you believe will be helpful. If you're too injured to do this, ask someone for help.
- Obtain contact information. As a passenger, you shouldn't expect the drivers of the vehicles to take care of this. It's up to you to get the contact information of all drivers and their insurance companies. Also, collect contact details from any witnesses to the collision. Statements from neutral eyewitnesses can be very persuasive in proving who caused the wreck and can be lost forever if you don't know how to contact them.
- Get the police report. When the police arrive on the accident scene, they'll outline key facts regarding the incident. The police report also provides you with valuable information, such as a summary of how the accident occurred, driver statements, and the officer’s conclusions as to who was at fault.
- Don't talk to the drivers or other passengers. Any statements you make to the other drivers or passengers can be used against you later when filing a claim. You want to avoid discussing the accident with them as much as possible.
Once you've been treated for your injuries, your next course of action is to retain an experienced car accident lawyer. He'll collect vital evidence, handle all communications with the insurance adjusters, and negotiate a settlement so you receive proper compensation.
Who's Liable to Compensate You for Damages?
In California, the negligent driver is responsible for compensation. Depending on the facts of your case, this may be the driver of another vehicle, of your auto, or both.
You may feel guilty filing a claim against the driver of the vehicle you were in if he or she is a friend or family member. However, your claim is really with the insurance company, not the individual, and it will pay your settlement proceeds.
Here's an important note: if you were a passenger in the vehicle of a person responsible for the crash, and that individual is a relative, you might not be able to file a claim under his auto insurance liability coverage. You're considered an insured person under his policy if you're a family member, such as a spouse or child, who lives with him. This makes you ineligible for injury compensation under liability coverage. However, you still may be able to file a claim for medical payments if that coverage is available through the policy.
What happens if the negligent driver didn't have insurance, or doesn't have adequate coverage to fully compensate you? You might be able to file a claim through your insurance under a medical payment, uninsured, or underinsured coverage policy.