I Was a Passenger in a Car Accident - Who Pays My Medical Bills?

As car accident lawyers, we frequently speak to passengers that were injured in a car accident. Naturally, injured passengers often wonder who will pay their medical bills associated with the car accident. When it comes to car accidents, Ohio is one of many states that follows a “tort” based or “at fault” system of liability. In simple terms, this means that the law holds the individual that caused the car accident responsible for the consequences of it – including the medical bills related to the injuries. When considering how best to handle passenger injury claims, there are some unique considerations that must be taken into account to determine who is responsible for medical bills, lost wages and other consequences of a car accident. 

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Can a Passenger be Responsible?

If you’ve been injured as a passenger in a car accident in Ohio, you may be wondering if you could be help liable for the damages caused. In general, the answer is that it is unlikely. However, some specific facts may lead to a finding that you were – as a passenger – most responsible for the car accident. These are situations in which the passenger is found to be “negligent” – or careless – while riding in the passenger seat. A somewhat common example of this is a situation in which the passenger distracts the driver in some way that led to the car accident occurring. However, by and large, in most car accidents the passenger has little to no control over the actions of the driver, and thus, are not held responsible for any resultant injuries. 

A Driver Owes a Duty of Care

On Ohio roads, a driver owes a duty of “reasonable care” to other drivers and passengers to drive safely for the conditions and to prevent injury to others. Whenever a driver fails to meet this duty, they can and should be help legally liable for any ensuing damages. If you find that another driver involved in a car accident was ultimately responsible for the crash, you may opt to sue the other driver. This is the most common scenario in a car accident. However, often times, a driver of the car the passenger was in is found to be liable for the accident, leaving the passenger with little option but to seek recourse from the driver. Many times, this is a close friend – so these situations can be delicate. However, a skilled personal injury lawyer knows how to tactfully handle this sometimes uncomfortable experience. After all, this is what car insurance is for. 

What Should I Do If I've Been in a Passenger Car Accident?

Like all car accidents, there are some best practices we advise to anyone involved. The biggest step involves thoroughly documenting the details of the car accident – including getting photographs and videos if possible. In general, after a car accident, if it’s safe to do so:

  1. Take pictures of the damage to vehicles, any skid marks and nearby traffic signs and signals. If you can, it’s helpful to take pictures from different angles to provide as much context and scale as possible.
  2. Obtain any contact information for witnesses – as well as note the location of any private or public cameras in the area
  3. Make sure to obtain the insurance information for all drivers involved. 
  4. Follow up with your primary care physician and make sure to save all medical records and bills as you receive them. 
  5. Carefully document your injures and how they affect your daily life on an ongoing basis. This can be done in a simple diary or by cell phone video. 
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Dennis P. Sawan

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Christopher A. Sawan


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