Each year, thousands of Floridians are involved in car accidents, and while much attention is focused on the drivers, passengers often face the brunt of injuries, physical and emotional trauma. The road to recovery can be long and arduous, with medical bills piling up and the challenge of navigating the legal maze to secure compensation. The dedicated team at Lawlor, White & Murphey offers insights into common passenger injuries in car accidents and the legal ramifications that arise from them.
Common Passenger Injuries in Car Accidents
Car accidents can be traumatic experiences, not just for the driver but also for the passengers involved. Passengers, having little to no control over the vehicle’s actions, are equally susceptible to severe injuries during a collision. Understanding the range of potential injuries can better equip individuals to seek appropriate medical care post-accident and be aware of the risks while on the road. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common passenger injuries in car accidents:
- Whiplash: This is one of the most common injuries in rear-end collisions. Whiplash occurs when the head is suddenly jolted backward and forward, causing strain to the neck muscles and ligaments. Symptoms might include neck pain, stiffness, and headaches.
- Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI): A sudden impact can cause the brain to collide with the inside of the skull. Symptoms range from headaches and dizziness to more severe cognitive impairments. TBIs can have long-lasting effects on cognitive function and mental health.
- Broken Bones: The force of a collision can lead to fractures in various parts of the body. Commonly broken bones include ribs, arms, legs, and collarbones.
- Lacerations and Abrasions: Broken glass, metal fragments, or even the impact of the seatbelt can lead to cuts and scrapes. While some are minor, others can be deep and require stitches.
- Internal Injuries: The force of a crash can cause internal bleeding or damage to internal organs, which might not be immediately evident. Symptoms like abdominal pain or difficulty breathing may indicate internal injuries.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: Damage to the spine can result in symptoms ranging from pain and numbness to paralysis in severe cases.
- Burns: In accidents where a vehicle catches fire or if skin comes into contact with hot surfaces or chemicals, passengers may sustain burns. The severity can range from first-degree to third-degree burns.
- Facial Injuries: Impact with the dashboard, steering wheel, airbag, side window, or shattered glass can lead to facial injuries, including broken jaws, dental damage, and eye injuries.
- Psychological Trauma: Beyond physical injuries, many passengers experience emotional and psychological distress after an accident. Symptoms can include anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and fear of driving or being in vehicles.
- Seatbelt Injuries: While seatbelts play a crucial role in protecting passengers, in some collisions, they can cause injuries due to the force of restraint. Common injuries include bruises, internal injuries, and even fractures in severe cases.
- Airbag Injuries: Airbags, designed to cushion impact, deploy at incredibly high speeds and can cause injuries such as burns, abrasions, and even broken bones, especially if a passenger is too close when it inflates.
- Ejection Injuries: In severe accidents where passengers are ejected from the vehicle, the injuries are often critical, ranging from multiple fractures to fatal injuries.
Legal Implications for Passengers
While the physical recovery process is daunting, understanding the legal nuances is equally critical. Here are some legal implications for passengers involved in car accidents:
- Right to Compensation: Passengers have a right to seek compensation for their injuries from the party at fault. This could be the driver of the vehicle they were in or the driver of another involved vehicle.
- Multiple Claims: If more than one party is at fault, passengers may have the right to file claims against multiple insurance policies.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) in Florida: Florida is a no-fault state, meaning that passengers can seek compensation from their PIP insurance irrespective of who was at fault. However, this only covers a percentage of medical bills and lost wages.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: If the at-fault driver doesn’t have adequate insurance, passengers can claim from their uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, if they have one.
- Statute of Limitations: In Florida, the window to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident is typically four years from the date of the accident. Missing this can mean forfeiting the right to legal recourse.
- Comparative Negligence: Florida follows a pure comparative negligence rule. If the passenger is found partly at fault (e.g., not wearing a seatbelt), their compensation might be reduced by their percentage of fault.
- Wrongful Death: If a passenger tragically dies in an accident, their family has the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Passengers Should Do After an Accident
Being involved in a car accident is a jarring experience for everyone in the vehicle, including passengers. While a lot of advice is available for drivers, passengers also need guidance on the best steps to take after an accident. Here’s a systematic guide for passengers on what to do post-collision:
- If you can, move away from immediate hazards like oncoming traffic or a smoking car.
- Stay at the accident scene until it’s appropriate to leave.
Seek Medical Attention
- Always get a medical check-up, even if you feel okay. Some injuries, like whiplash or internal injuries, might not manifest immediately.
- Keep records of any medical treatments, medications, and follow-up visits.
Call the Police
- If the driver hasn’t already, ensure that the police are informed. They’ll document the accident and produce a report, which might be vital for any future legal or insurance claims.
Document the Scene
- Take photographs of the accident scene, the vehicles involved, and any visible injuries you sustained.
- Collect details of the cars involved, such as license plate numbers, make, and model.
Gather Witness Details
- If there are any bystanders or witnesses, obtain their names, contact information, and a brief description of what they saw.
Collect Driver and Insurance Information
- Ask the drivers involved for their names, addresses, contact details, driver’s license numbers, and insurance information.
- If multiple cars are involved, ensure you get details from each driver.
Avoid Discussing Fault
- While it’s natural to discuss the accident with others at the scene, avoid making statements about who might be at fault or speculating about what happened.
- Anything you say can potentially be used later in legal or insurance proceedings.
Report to Your Insurance Company
- Even if you were a passenger, informing your own insurance company about the accident can be beneficial, especially if there are complications with the driver’s insurance later.
Keep a Personal Record
- Write down everything you remember about the accident as soon as possible. Over time, memories can fade, so having a firsthand account can be invaluable.
- Maintain a diary of your physical and emotional state in the days and weeks following the accident. This can be crucial if you need to claim for injuries later.
Consult an Attorney
- If you believe you might have a claim, or if the accident circumstances are complicated, it’s wise to consult with an attorney. They can guide you on the best course of action and ensure your rights are protected.
- Keep a dedicated folder or digital file with all related documents: medical bills, prescriptions, police reports, correspondence, etc.
- Being organized can be a lifesaver if you need to reference information quickly or build a case.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer at Lawlor, White & Murphey for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today
Being a passenger in a car accident is a traumatic experience. Beyond the physical pain, the legal labyrinth can be overwhelming. Knowledge is power, and understanding your rights and the legal implications can make the recovery journey smoother. At Lawlor, White & Murphey, we stand committed to guiding you every step of the way, ensuring you aren’t alone in this ordeal.
With a proven track record of success in car accident cases, we have the knowledge and resources to build a strong case on your behalf. At Lawlor, White & Murphey, we believe in justice for all. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our team is ready to provide you with the legal support and guidance you need during this challenging time.
Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you on the road to recovery. Your journey to justice begins here.