When someone you know causes an accident, and you were a passenger in the vehicle, you will probably file a claim against their insurance company. This is common procedure for an accident. Typically, you will file a claim against their insurance for damages, and if the insurance company refuses to pay you will hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit.
It is not a pleasant situation, but you may not have many options in this scenario. However, if your friend or family member is insured, the insurance company will pay for your expenses, not your friend.
You File Suit Against the Individual, but the Insurance Company Still Pays (Within Policy Limits)
If you are injured due to your friend or family member's negligence, and there’s enough insurance to cover your claim, your compensation will come out of the insurance company's pockets within the policy holder's insurance limits.
HOWEVER, if you have significant injuries that involve a hospital stay and a lengthy recovery process, the insurance company will fight the claim. If the insurance company does not want to pay out, you will file a lawsuit.
When you file the lawsuit, you have to name your friend or family member, and not the insurance company. This is the part where people get scared because no one wants to sue someone they know and love. However, if you win your lawsuit, the insurance company is (most likely) paying for the expenses, not your friend.
This part of Virginia personal injury cases can be confusing for some. Yes, you are filing a lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. Yes, in most cases if you win your lawsuit, the insurance company is paying, not your friend. There are situations where your friend will be paying out of pocket, but commonly it is the insurance company footing the bill.
How Will a Lawsuit Affect My Friend or Family Member?
There are instances where you may have to seek compensation from your friend directly. If your injuries exceeded the policy limits, your attorney will look at YOUR insurance policy first. If you have Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist (UIM) policy, your insurance could cover the rest of your damage. UIM is no-fault coverage, meaning your rates generally won't be affected.
If after looking at both insurance policies there is still not enough to cover your injuries, your attorney may look at your friend's assets. This will be unpleasant for you and your loved one. However, you may not have many options at this point.
What Are My First Steps?
First, you should contact your friend's insurance company to file a claim. Next, contact your own and let them know what happened. Finally, consult with an attorney, particularly if your injuries are significant (involving a hospital stay and lengthy recovery process). The greater your injuries, the more likely the insurance company will fight your claim. You will want an attorney to take you through the process.