Passenger Injury Claims Explained

03 March 2017

Passengers in a private vehicle, on public transport or as a pillion on a motorcycle will suffer similar types of injuries as the drivers/riders of the vehicles. These injuries will range from soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash, bruising and abrasions, to more serious injuries such as fractures, loss of limb or even death.

Most personal injury claims can be dealt with on a No Win No Fee basis.

It's almost always the case that the injuries suffered by the passengers cannot have been caused by the passengers themselves as they are not in control of the vehicle. Generally the accident will be due to someone else’s negligence, either the driver/rider of their own vehicle or another driver. In clear cut cases, responsibility for the accident will hopefully be accepted by the driver who was to blame, and as a consequence a personal injury claim for compensation should be dealt with quickly by that driver’s insurers.

In personal injury claims where the circumstances of the accident are more complex, such as a head-on accident in a narrow lane, passenger injury claims are sometimes “put on hold” pending the outcome of the dispute between the drivers involved.

The sensible approach, which is usually adopted, is to deal with any passenger claim on a “without prejudice” basis. This generally ensures that passenger injury claims can be dealt with quickly until it has been determined who’s responsible for the accident.

One of the most difficult situations for any passenger or pillion is the prospect of taking action against the driver of the vehicle that they were in, or the rider of the bike that they were on. It can create a strain in an existing relationship when a claim is made against the driver. It is all the more difficult if that person is a spouse, close relative or friend.

The situation is complicated further if the passenger is a child (anyone under the age of 18), as they will need to be assisted by a suitable adult during the course of the claim, who will be known as their “litigation friend”. In most cases this will be the child’s parent or guardian.

Where there is any suggestion that the driver of the vehicle was at fault for the accident then the “litigation friend” should not be the driver, as there would be a potential conflict of interest. In these situations a passenger is still able to bring a claim for compensation for their injury.

Reduce Risk of Injury

Passengers and pillions can help to reduce the risk of injury by adopting a safety conscious approach. All passengers should try not to distract the driver, either through physical contact or by blocking the views from windscreens, side windows or side and rear-view mirrors.

Passengers should wear correctly fitted seat-belts, where fitted, and they should always sit in a seat with a seat belt where available in the vehicle.

Children should be appropriately restrained with an appropriate car seat or booster. Advice on the type and fitting of child safety seats can be obtained from reputable stores, but we would recommend that you seek guidance from the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) website.

Pillions should ensure that the rider can perform their “life-saver” observations without any hindrance too. Pillions should also ensure that they are wearing a correctly fitted regulation compliant helmet, with the chin-strap fastened. In addition, they should wear appropriate clothing (leathers or other protective clothing) including suitable gloves and boots.

There are some limited circumstances where passengers or pillions will have their claim for their injuries reduced or even totally rejected, such as:

  • Where the driver or rider was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which impaired their driving, and the injured passenger or pillion was aware of this when they got into the vehicle.
  • Where the passenger was not wearing a seat belt, and the injuries would have been significantly reduced or avoided had they been.
  • Where the passenger/pillion was engaged in a serious criminal activity as part of the journey.
  • Where the passenger travelled in a vehicle whilst knowing the driver is uninsured.

In most cases the right to claim compensation for the injuries suffered remains, but the award of compensation is reduced to some extent.

More articles