A lot of accidents involve family and friends. These accidents can happen in a variety of ways. Probably the most common is for a family member or friend to be driving and another family member or friend to be in the passenger seat. There is always an issue for the passenger about whether to make a claim against the driver.
In some accidents the decision-making is straightforward. For instance, if the passenger’s vehicle is rear ended by a drunk driver, there’s not going to be a claim against the family member or friend driving. However, there are situations where the decision is less obvious.
Imagine a collision at an uncontrolled intersection. There are a variety of rules that govern who has the "right of way" at an uncontrolled intersection. One of them relies on which car to the other is right. But the common "right of way" rule is not always controlling. More important under the law is which car gets into and has "control" of the intersection.
In a collision at an uncontrolled intersection where there is a dispute about which vehicle had the right of way (or control of the intersection) it makes sense for the passenger to assert claims against both the at-fault driver and the friend or family member.
When I make this suggestion to clients they frequently react by telling me that they don’t want to make a claim against a friend or a family member. This initial reaction is understandable. They’ve developed a close relationship over years and don’t want to negatively influence that by making a claim.
However, the only one that’s benefited by this kind of thinking is the friend or family member’s insurance company. After all, the friend or family member has paid premiums for years to ensure that he or she has coverage in case an accident happens and he or she was potentially responsible for it. By not making a claim, the passenger is effectively wasting all of those premium payments and confirming a benefit only on the friend or family member’s insurance company.
In these situations it’s almost always feasible to talk through these issues with a friend or family member and help them understand why it makes sense for the insured passenger to make a claim against their insurance (even if most indicators suggest that the other driver was at fault).
If you have any questions about whether or not you should make a claim against a friend or a family member for personal injuries please let me know. I’d be happy to discuss the various issues with you.