What to do if you are injured in a car accident

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A car accident is a stressful situation no matter how big or how small, whether you are the driver or the passenger. If you have an accident in which someone is injured, you should immediately call for emergency help. Once the immediate injuries and medical needs are attended to, additional action with insurance companies may be needed to cover medical expenses.

As a passenger involved in an accident, you do have options to deal with the aftermath. Knowing what options are available to you and what requires immediate attention may help ease a little of the stress that comes with collisions.

What to do if you are injured in a car accident

Safety is always the top priority. When you are involved in a car accident, focusing on each step one-by-one could help you navigate the tense situation.

Before getting any insurance carriers involved, you should prioritize the following:

  1. Report the accident to law enforcement: Most states require you to contact law enforcement for any accident, especially one with injuries. Even if there appear to be no injuries or only minor ones, you should still get the police involved. This helps in case the other drivers are uncooperative or if injuries develop later on.
  2. Obtain accident details: This is the time to make a record of pertinent information, such as license plate numbers, insurance information for all involved drivers and photos of the vehicle damage and surrounding areas. If there are any witnesses who are not drivers, be sure to get their details or contact information as well.
  3. Record details following the accident: Taking quick notes, even if it is a voice recording on your phone, may provide helpful details for use later on. Consider taking notes on who was injured, the symptoms expressed and which medical providers were involved. It also helps to keep track of any out-of-pocket expenses you had to pay as a result of the accident.
  4. Seek immediate medical attention: Injuries may seem very minor at the time, but it is also possible for injuries not to appear until several days later. For this reason, getting medical advice immediately following the accident is one of the best ways to help ensure your safety as well as a smooth claim process.

Injuries possible from an accident

Calling for medical attention may seem unnecessary when injuries are not apparent, but this is a critical step. Medical personnel are trained to assess injuries, including ones which may develop a day or few days after the accident occurs. While injuries may occur in many forms and severity, there are a few common injuries, including:

  • Whiplash
  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Cuts and scrapes

These are only a handful of possible injuries. More serious ones could be experienced, such as broken bones, internal bruising and damage or head injuries. Medical attention is needed in case any of these are life-threatening or cause major damage. If your injuries meet a certain serious injury threshold, then this becomes a critical point with insurers. Depending on the seriousness of an injury, you may qualify for additional pain and suffering if you have no-fault insurance.

What to do if you are injured as a passenger in a car accident

You may be wondering, “What would I do if I was a passenger in a car accident?” If you are a passenger in a car accident, compensation for property damage or medical expenses incurred is generally available through three different insurance options. You could file a car crash claim with the at-fault driver, with your driver’s insurance carrier or with your own insurance company.

Filing a claim with at-fault driver’s insurance

Your first course of action with insurance might be to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. Since almost every state legally requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of insurance, this is a viable option for passengers in a car accident.

The minimum amount of coverage required often includes bodily injury liability (BI) and property damage (PD) liability. Bodily injury liability is designed to specifically pay for medical expenses related to injuries from an accident. If the at-fault driver is driving legally, then their policy should include a minimum amount of coverage for this scenario. The same applies to property, or vehicle, damage.

The exact limits of the at-fault driver’s policy may get a little more complicated. Depending on the state, the minimum BI may be $25,000 per person or up to $100,000, for example. The at-fault driver may not have purchased additional liability coverage beyond the legal requirement. If your injuries and medical expenses are extensive, then the at-fault driver’s limits may not be enough to cover the costs.

Filing a claim with the driver’s insurance

As a passenger, you may be able to file a claim with your driver’s insurance if they have a policy that includes personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments. While some states require this type of coverage, not all states do. If your driver does have these optional coverages, then a passenger is usually covered.

If the driver of the car you were injured in does not have PIP or medical payments coverage, then it is usually possible for you to file a claim through their liability insurance. This could cause their insurance premiums to increase, but it could help pay towards your medical expenses that were not covered by the at-fault driver’s policy.

You may choose to file a claim for only the difference in what the at-fault driver’s policy did not cover. For example, if the at-fault driver has $50,000 in liability, but your medical expenses are $60,000, then you could seek payment for the $10,000 difference with your driver’s policy.

Filing a claim with your insurance

Another option for you as the passenger is your own auto insurance policy. If you have PIP or medical payment coverage with yours, and it is not available through your driver’s policy, then this could pay towards expenses.

You may also find help with medical expenses through your health insurance. Typically the auto insurance policy applies first and then you could work with your health insurance company for coverage with medical treatment.

When to use uninsured motorist coverage

There are also times when uninsured motorist coverage may apply, including if you are the passenger. About 13% of all drivers are uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute. This means if you are involved in an accident with someone who does not have insurance coverage and the accident is ruled the other driver’s fault, then the uninsured motorist coverage would apply. This would help cover expenses related to injuries such as medical and physical therapy expenses or lost wages due to the accident.

Written by
Sara Coleman
Insurance Contributor
Sara Coleman has three years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, Reviews.com, Coverage.com and numerous other personal finance sites. She writes about insurance products such as auto, homeowners, renters and disability.
Edited by
Insurance Editor