When a passenger is injured in a car accident

A car accident can have devastating consequences for passengers, as well as for drivers and pedestrians. Although rates of hospitalisation for road accidents are twice as high for drivers as for passengers, thousands of passengers are seriously hurt every year.
Across the country, more than 200 passengers are killed every year in motor vehicle accidents, and another 5,000 or more are hospitalised with their injuries, with about 1,500 of those classified as ‘high threat to life’ injuries.
Passengers often lack the protection of airbags and often their injuries are severe, including brain and spinal damage, facial and dental damage, as well as other physical and psychological trauma.

Entitlement to compensation

If you’re injured as a passenger, you may wonder if you have the same entitlements to claim compensation for your injuries.
Although injured passengers do have the same right to compensation, in practice many will hesitate to make a claim. They may hesitate because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt, and think that they thus won’t be eligible or that they will be fined for not belting up. Or they knew the driver had had too much to drink, so they worry that they might be held partly responsible for the accident. Or perhaps the driver was a friend and they don’t want to cause trouble for them.
However, these worries may be unnecessary. The motor accident compensation scheme enables passengers who have been injured in a road accident to receive compensation for their injuries without creating problems for the driver. A strict time limit applies to making a claim, so the best course of action, whatever the circumstances, is to seek expert legal advice without delay.

Achieving the best outcome

With the help of an experienced legal team, many passengers have received substantial payments as compensation for the injuries they sustained. A review of some recent cases indicates that payouts between $180,000 and $480,000 are not unusual, as they are intended to cover past and future medical expenses associated with the injuries, economic loss, and sometimes as payment for permanent impairment, pain and suffering.

When the passenger was at fault

If the injured passenger was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, or if the passenger knew the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and, therefore, unlikely to be able to drive safely, payouts may be reduced according to the extent of the contributory negligence.
A case heard in the District Court of New South Wales involved three passengers who were seriously injured when the driver hit a power pole. The driver was drunk and speeding and the car was unregistered, so the injured passengers sued the Nominal Defendant. This is the government body who acts as the CTP (compulsory third party or ‘greenslip’) insurer of the vehicle at fault, if it isn’t registered.
The judge found that although the passengers knew, or ought to have known, that the driver was impaired by alcohol and the fact that some of them were not wearing seatbelts, the driver still owed the passengers a duty of care, and it was his breach of that duty that caused the accident. Damages were therefore awarded to all three passengers. However, the damages were reduced by between 35% and 40% because of the passengers’ contributory negligence.

How an experienced lawyer can help

Regardless of the details of the accident, anyone injured as a passenger should seek advice from a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with cases of this kind. A good lawyer can help you through the process, negotiating with insurers on your behalf. With expert assistance, it may be possible to arrange a medical assessment to establish the full extent of the impairment caused by your injury. They can also help you to organise an informal settlement conference to avoid expensive court action, convince the insurer to increase the sum of their initial settlement offer, and bring matters to a speedy resolution.

With the help of an experienced legal team, many passengers in car accidents have received substantial payments as compensation for the injuries they sustained. Find out how a good lawyer can help you negotiate the process.

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