If I was in an accident a couple years ago and my passenger is suing me for their injuries, will my insurer cover their entitlement?

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If I was in an accident a couple years ago and my passenger is suing me for their injuries, will my insurer cover their entitlement?

I was insured. I was cited by the responding officer for assured clear distance, which I later plead no contest to. I had hydroplaned, losing control of the vehicle and slammedinto the rear of another. Plaintiff disregarded my request to wear her seatbelt upon getting into the car.

Asked on December 20, 2011 under Personal Injury, Ohio

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Whether or not your insurance will pay for the entire amount of a judgment against you will depend on the amount of coverage in your insurance policy.  If the judgment against you exceeds the amount of coverage your policy has for bodily injury, then you would be responsible for amounts not covered by your policy.  The insurance company will provide you with an attorney at no cost to you to represent you in the lawsuit.

The amount of a potential future judgment against you by the passenger will include medical bills, pain and suffering and documentation of any wage loss.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for wage loss is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills. 

If you live in a comparative negligence state, you may be able to argue in the lawsuit that the passenger refusing to wear a seatbelt was negligent and therefore the percentage of her negligence would reduce the amount you owe for her damages.  For example, if it is determined that she was 20% negligent for not wearing a seatbelt, then you would only be liable for 80% of her damages instead of 100%,  Whether or not you are in a comparative negligent state, you could assert the defense of assumption of the risk against the passenger for refusing to wear a seatbelt.  Assumption of the risk means the passenger recognized and understood the danger of not wearing a seatbelt and voluntarily chose to encounter it.

If you end up with a judgment against you that you can't afford to pay, you might want to consider filing bankruptcy.  It would be premature to file bankruptcy until the case is concluded because you wouldn't know the exact amount of the judgment against you until that time.


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