Injuries to Passengers Sustained in Single-Car Accidents May be Compensable in Columbus

On April 13, 2015, a vehicle struck a tree on Moss Hollow Road in Chillicothe, Ohio. The car was driven by Cedrick Lansing, who was injured in the accident, as well as his three passengers, Gary K. Ison, Dakota L. Ratliff, and Devon Ratliff. Gary Ison and Devon Ratliff were flown to hospitals in Columbus for their injuries, while Cedrick Lansing and Dakota Ratliff were taken by ambulance to Adena Medical Center.

The Chillicothe Gazette is reporting that the accident remains under investigation by the patrol. The passengers’ injuries may be compensable in Ohio (see legal commentary below).

Source: Chillicothe Gazette

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Legal Analysis on Passengers’ Injuries in Single-Car Accidents in Ohio

You may be wondering if you can recover for injuries sustained in a single-car accident as a passenger. The law is pretty clear that under most circumstances, the driver can be held liable for injuries caused to his passengers by his negligence. The greater question, though, is whether an insurance company will compensate you for your injuries. Ultimately, it will come down to the actual policy language so there is not a good, universally applicable answer.

Typically, the driver’s insurance company will apply and will cover the injured passengers. There are only a few exceptions to this. For instance, many policies have an exclusion for the driver’s household members. Another common defense is assumption of risk, which can apply in instances where the passenger knows that the driver is intoxicated, yet voluntarily gets in the car anyway.

Sometimes the driver will have inadequate coverage or be uninsured entirely. If so, passenger’s may be able to recover from their own auto insurance companies if they have uninsured motorist coverage on their own auto insurance policies. Depending on the specific policy language, such policies can apply even if the passengers’ own vehicles are not involved in the accident in any way. For example, in Willet v. Geico General Insurance Co., 2006-Ohio-3957, Steven Willet was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Jonathon Buckler. Mr. Buckler crashed the vehicle in a single-car accident and it was determined that, at the time of the accident, Mr. Buckler had no auto insurance in effect. Steven Willet did not survive the accident and his father brought suit against his own insurance company to recover for damages. The Court found that Geico’s uninsured motorist policy language was broad enough that Mr. Willet could recover under the policy.

Legal Commentary on the Above Accident

It is likely from the currently available facts that the accident was caused by Mr. Lansing’s negligence. Therefore, it is likely that all three passengers will be able to recover from Mr. Lansing’s auto insurance policy. In addition, if any of the three passengers had their own auto insurance policy with an underinsured motorist policy, he or she may be able to additionally recover from their own insurance company as well.

About the Author

Alex Freitag is an Ohio personal injury lawyer. He offers a free consultation. To get his help call (614) 438-2672. Find out what it feels like to get help from a lawyer that cares.

Alex Freitag
Anthony Castelli Attorney
100 E. Campus View Boulevard, Suite #250
Columbus, Ohio, 43235
(614) 438-2672