Does auto insurance cover me if I'm not in the driver's seat?


When you get into a friend's car, chances are you don't ask to see a copy of his auto insurance policy. But what if that friend were to get in an accident? Would your injuries be covered? Here's a look at what options passengers have -- and what kinds of coverage your driver would need to have to protect you.
If another driver causes the accident
Your driver is waiting for the light to turn green, when a less careful driver rear-ends her car, causing you to get whiplash. To be on the safe side, you go to a hospital. When the pain doesn't go away, you have to miss several days of work and visit a chiropractor. Will your hospital bill be covered? What about the physical therapy bills -- and lost wages?
If another driver was at fault, his or her bodily injury liability coverage would cover you. Bodily injury liability is required by most states and provides coverage for anyone the policyholder injures in an accident up to the limits of the policy, according to the Insurance Information Institute. If you sue the other driver, bodily injury liability coverage is what would help him or her fight your claims.
If the other motorist is driving without insurance, your driver would need to have uninsured motorist coverage for your injuries to be covered. Uninsured motorist coverage, which also would provide coverage if the accident was a hit-and-run, replaces the insurance that the at-fault driver should have had. Uninsured motorist coverage is optional in most states, so your driver may not have it.
Things work differently in no-fault insurance states. In a no-fault state, your driver would be required to have personal injury protection (PIP). Your driver's PIP coverage would cover you as a passenger no matter who was at fault. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, PIP covers medical bills, lost wages and rehabilitation costs.
If your driver causes the accident
Your driver gets distracted and blows through a red light, colliding with another car. Are you still protected?
If you're in a no-fault state, you'd be covered by your driver's PIP coverage. If you're not in a no-fault state, your driver would need to have medical payments coverage, which is similar to PIP.
Medical payments coverage provides compensation for medical expenses to the policyholder and his or her passengers. Keep in mind, however, that medical payments coverage, unlike PIP, does not cover lost wages. PIP also can be purchased in some states without no-fault laws to avoid such coverage gaps.
If your driver doesn't have enough coverage to cover all of the expenses related to your injury, you have the option of suing. But passengers also have responsibilities of their own when it comes to avoiding personal injury, according to the Law Offices of John D. Winer, a personal injury firm in California. A passenger can be found to share some of the responsibility for his injuries if, for example, he wasn't wearing a seat belt or was encouraging the driver to break the rules of the road.

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