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Can an Injured Passenger Sue the Driver in a Crash?

Motor vehicle accidents come in an amazing number of configurations, and as a law firm that handles many car crash cases, we’ve encountered more varieties than most people would believe. One issue that sometimes comes up concerns the passengers in these vehicles, as it relates to their ability to sue the drivers.

If you’re a passenger in a car that another driver hits and you’re injured, you can sue that driver. But what if that’s not the situation? What if you’re a passenger in the car that caused the damage—and you’re also injured? Are you able to sue that driver? What if it was a single-vehicle crash?

Recovering for Passenger Injuries

The answers can be complicated. In a tort state, where accident victims have to sue to recover damages, any party in any crash can attempt to sue any other. But Michigan has a no-fault auto insurance system, which calls for automatic payments in many injury cases, while the system also blocks some lawsuits. For passengers this system can be confusing, even to those who know the laws and regulations well.

Passenger in a Struck Vehicle

The simplest case involves a passenger in a vehicle that was hit by another. If a passenger in the struck vehicle is injured, they have several options. First and foremost, the victim will be covered by the personal injury protection (PIP) provisions of Michigan’s no-fault system. That will cover medical expenses, lost wages, and some other damages. But who—or rather which insurance company—actually pays might take a little time to determine.

If the victim has auto insurance (especially if they carry uninsured or underinsured motorist [UM/UIM] coverage), that might be the end of it. If not, the responsibility might pass to any of several parties, including the victim’s spouse, another relative, or the owner or driver of the struck vehicle (not necessarily the same person).

If none of these apply, the injured passenger is still covered by the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan.

Passenger in the Vehicle That Crashed

What if this is turned around? What if you’re a passenger in a vehicle that crashes into another, or you’re hurt when the driver has a single-car accident, like skidding on an icy road and hitting a tree, or driving into a ditch? Can you still sue that driver?

You can. But once again, which party’s insurer pays might need to be determined. The driver’s insurance should provide PIP coverage, and if not, your own might (especially with UM/UIM coverage).

But there are exceptions—and exceptions to the exceptions. If the vehicle is a taxi or other for-hire vehicle, or a company car, their insurance should take over. If you’re related to the driver, however, your policy might block action—but there can be ways around that restriction. Understanding how this plays out for any particular accident can take an experienced attorney to untangle.

Additional Serious Injury Claim Options

Beyond the coverage of the no-fault system, a victim can still sue for damages if an injury meets what is known as a “threshold.” In Michigan, that means an injury that results in “death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement.” How that standard is interpreted, however, usually needs to be settled in court during the suit.

Real Issues

These issues may seem rare and arcane, but they’re very real. A passenger was seriously injured in a single-car crash in Detroit early in December. That victim is going to need expensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, and who will ultimately need to pay those bills will need to be determined.

Detroit Car Accident Lawyer

Christensen Law has experience with all the ins and outs of Detroit car accident claims, no matter what the circumstances or how many insurance companies might be involved. We’ve helped hundreds of clients, and we’re ready to help you.

Give us a call at 248-213-4900 or contact us online today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.