Nearly 24,000 passengers suffered injuries in car accidents in Illinois in 2010, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) statistics show. They accounted for 26.8 percent of all car crash injuries during the year. Nearly 180 car passengers were killed in motor vehicle wrecks in Illinois in 2010, or 22.7 percent of the year’s car crash fatalities.
These passengers did not control the vehicle. Someone else caused their harm. In some cases, it was the driver of their vehicle. In other cases, it was the driver of another vehicle.
When someone’s negligence or recklessness causes another person to be harmed, the person who was at fault can be held liable for the injured person’s losses, pain and suffering.
If you are involved in a car accident that was caused by someone else, you have the legal right to seek monetary damages (i.e., compensation) from the party responsible for the accident.
Illinois is a “fault state.” That means you must show that the other party’s negligence caused the accident, and you suffered injury as a result. In a successful lawsuit, you can recover money for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and other damages.
In many cases, car accident victims pursue personal injury lawsuits against strangers. In fatal accident cases, surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Sometimes, however, the person who drove the vehicle you were injured in is the one responsible for the crash. This person can be held liable for your injuries as if they were a stranger.
Some people may be reluctant to take legal action against a friend or family member after a car accident. You may not want to sue someone with whom you have a good relationship. You may think it’s not worth the cost to your friendship to make an insurance claim.
However, you have to remember: A lawsuit will not seek money from your friend. Instead, your friend’s insurance company will be required to pay for your losses. That’s the purpose of car insurance. It insures that car accident victims have their bills paid while protecting policyholders from having to bear the financial burden of the accident on their own.
If you choose not to make a claim against your friend, you are essentially giving the auto insurance company a free pass. It’s the same as saying that even though they collected insurance premiums from your friend year after year, now that your friend has had an accident, the insurance company should not have to pay a claim.
But you aren’t saving your friend money. Instead, you are letting the car insurance company keep its profit margin higher by not paying a claim – at your expense.
Illinois allows an injured passenger to sue a responsible driver after a car accident. Yet, most insurance companies impose limitations. These limitations are found among the “household exclusions” in car insurance policies.
Household exclusions are clauses that prevent one family member in the same household from suing another family member. For instance, a husband whose wife is driving can’t sue his wife if her negligence causes an accident. Household exclusions are meant to ensure that no one defrauds insurance companies by staging accidents.
Still, these exclusions have important exceptions. In particular, the Illinois insurance code carves out an exception when a third party has the “right of contribution.” This is the right to have the family member responsible for the injury pay some portion of damages from the car accident. In addition, if someone who was not a member of the insured party’s household was driving the car at the time of the accident, the household exclusion would not apply.
If you were a passenger who was injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important that you take action. A Chicago car passenger injury lawyer can help you to sort out who is liable for your injury, help you obtain compensation from that party’s insurance company and assist you with medical expenses and other losses.
If you are an injured passenger who needs legal help after a car accident, call Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., today at our toll-free number or use our online form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.