What Are a Passenger’s Rights After a Las Vegas Car Crash?

las vegas car crash passenger rights

After being involved in an auto accident in Nevada, you may wonder about your next steps. For drivers, this can include notifying your auto insurance company, giving information to police, or contacting an auto accident attorney. But when you’re a passenger in an accident, your legal rights and responsibilities are somewhat different from those of a driver—even though your injuries may be just as serious. Below, we’ll discuss the rights that passengers can exercise after a Las Vegas car crash.

Why Are Passengers’ Rights Different?

Generally, passengers who are injured in an accident can file a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If this driver’s coverage is insufficient to cover the damages the passenger has sustained, and another driver is partially at fault, the passenger may also be able to recover additional damages against the second driver—with some exceptions we’ve noted below.

Except for rare circumstances (like grabbing the wheel or throwing an object out the window), a passenger generally won’t be deemed at fault for a traffic accident. However, this doesn’t mean that passengers can’t be negligent—if you get into a vehicle with someone you know is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or who doesn’t have a valid driver’s license, your own decision to travel with an unsafe driver could bar you from recovering any damages.

A passenger’s ability to recover damages from the at-fault driver may also depend on their relationship with the driver. If you’re traveling with another member of your household, like a spouse or parent, your insurance policy may not allow you to recover against this person if you’re also covered on the policy. And regardless of their relationship with the at-fault drivers, passengers can’t recover more than the total value of their claim from the drivers involved.

But if these situations don’t apply, you may be able to pursue damages from the driver or drivers who were responsible for the accident. Determining fault may be more challenging than it first appears, and the insurance companies involved in settling a claim will pore over the police report, interview witnesses, send out questionnaires to those involved, and take photos of the scene.

This is one reason it’s important to seek advice from a personal injury attorney before you take any concrete steps—though it can be tempting to accept a settlement offer, especially when bills are piling up, doing so could mean leaving money on the table. Insurance companies are interested in settling claims for as little as they can, as quickly as they can, and they know the effectiveness of putting pressure on those who have been injured in an accident.

What Steps Should a Passenger Take After an Auto Accident?

Regardless of your role in a traffic accident, there are a few important steps to take to protect your health and preserve any potential evidence.

Get to safety and call 911.

Nevada law requires the police to be notified whenever someone has been injured in an auto accident. After getting to safety (if you’re able to), call 911 so that police and EMS can respond quickly. The police officers who come to the scene may ask you for a statement—provide as much factual information as you can, as memories can fade quickly and the police report may become important evidence later.

Seek medical attention.

Even if you seem uninjured, there are several medical issues—from traumatic brain injuries to soft-tissue damage—that may not reveal themselves for days or even weeks after a car crash. And the sudden flow of adrenaline you experience just after an accident can also mask the pain of any injuries. By seeking medical attention, you’ll be able to spot and treat any issues before they develop into something more serious.

Take photos or videos of the accident scene.

If you’re transported from the accident by ambulance, you may not have much of an opportunity to gather evidence—and that’s fine. But if you’re able to, taking photos of the scene just after the crash and getting video of the damage can be critical when it comes to settling a later legal claim. After a crash is cleaned up, it can be tougher to prove exactly what happened.

It’s also important to take photos of any visible injuries you’ve sustained. Bruises, scrapes, and other contusions can quickly fade; by having photographic evidence of the physical harm you’ve suffered, you’ll be able to strengthen your claim for damages.

Get witness information.

If police respond to the scene to make an accident report, they’ll often speak to witnesses as a way to determine what happened and who was at fault. However, their interests are different from yours, and they may only get contact information from one or two witnesses—whatever is needed to settle the fault issue. But generally, the more witness information that’s available to someone filing a personal injury claim, the better.

Keep copies of your bills and other records.

If you intend to seek compensation for your medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, or other losses resulting from an accident, it’s important to keep track of your losses. This means keeping your medical records, medical bills, communications from your employer, any photos or videos you have, and whatever else that may be relevant to the accident. Having these documents on hand can make it much easier to negotiate with the at-fault driver or their insurance company.

Contact a personal injury attorney.

After an accident, you may quickly be contacted by an insurance company with a settlement offer. And for those who are looking forward to moving beyond the aftermath of an accident, a settlement can seem like the best way to put this behind you for good. But insurance companies don’t have your best interest in mind—while an auto accident attorney does. Having an attorney on your side can ensure you have the greatest chance of recovering the maximum compensation available.

Your Legal Options After an Auto Accident

After you’ve been involved in an accident, you have a few potential options to pursue.

Filing a claim against the at-fault driver.

As explained earlier, you may not be able to claim damages against the driver if you’re a member of the same household. But in situations where you’re not related to the driver at fault, you can file a claim against them with their insurance company. Their insurer’s liability coverage can pay your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages you’ve sustained.

Filing a claim against other potentially at-fault parties.

In some accidents, no drivers may be deemed at fault—instead, the accident may stem from dangerous road conditions, defective highway design, or a piece of debris or cargo that has fallen out of a commercial vehicle. In these situations, you may be able to file a claim against a government entity, a company, or other involved parties. An experienced auto accident attorney can drill down into the causes of your accident and determine who may be at fault.

Negotiating a settlement.

Few auto accident cases ever make it all the way to trial—most tend to be settled at some point. But the amount and speed of settlement can vary widely, and having an attorney on your side can streamline the process. For plaintiffs who are facing a long, expensive recovery, delaying settlement can seem like a bad idea. However, settling too quickly can often mean giving up potential compensation. By putting pressure on the insurance companies, your attorney can maximize your compensation.

What Damages are Available?

The damages that are available under Nevada law can vary based on the circumstances of your wreck. In most cases, they can include:

  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future income or earning capacity
  • Medical expenses
  • Future medical costs stemming from the accident (like physical therapy or future joint-replacement procedures)
  • Pain and suffering

In some situations, your spouse may also be able to pursue a claim for “loss of consortium”—the loss of your love and companionship while you’re recuperating from injuries and adjusting to your new normal.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a passenger in an auto accident, the last thing you need to deal with now is negotiating with insurance companies. By contacting a personal injury attorney, you can focus on the things you need to while remaining assured that your legal rights are being protected throughout the process.