Are Passengers Covered by Car Insurance?

Last Updated on April 2, 2020

You buy car insurance to protect yourself and your car. But are passengers covered by car insurance too?

All car insurance policies also cover passengers. In fact, as a passenger, you may be covered by the driver’s car insurance policy and your own car insurance policy.

Car insurance claims for passengers can get messy. Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about how passengers are covered by car insurance.

Are Passengers Covered by Car Insurance?

All Liability Insurance Policies Cover Passengers

Every state in America requires car insurance except for New Hampshire and Virginia (most drivers in New Hampshire and Virginia have car insurance regardless).

States require you to have liability insurance, which covers damage you inflict on other people while driving.

In an accident, the liability coverage of the at-fault driver will cover the medical bills and other expenses incurred by the driver and passengers from that accident.

Let’s say the other driver caused the accident. If someone rammed into your bumper at a red light, for example, and you and your three passengers have significant injuries, then your medical bills will be covered by the liability insurance of the at-fault driver.

If you caused the accident, however, then your liability insurance will extend to your passengers – but only if your passengers do not live in the same household as you.

Confused? That’s okay. Passenger insurance coverage varies based on the type of car insurance used. Below, we’ll talk about the specific types of car insurance and how they cover passengers.

Types of Insurance that Cover Passengers

In every state, drivers are required to carry liability car insurance to cover any harm to third parties when they are at fault – or ‘liable’ – for damage. If you buy car insurance in any state, then it automatically includes liability coverage.

Sometimes, another form of car insurance will provide primary coverage for passengers no matter who is at fault.

How your injuries will be covered depends on state laws, who is at fault, and the type of insurance that drivers carry:

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage: Bodily injury liability coverage is required in all states. If the other driver caused the accident, then the other driver’s bodily injury liability coverage will cover your medical bills as a passenger. If your driver caused the accident, then your driver’s bodily injury liability coverage will cover your medical bills as a passenger. However, your own driver’s bodily injury liability coverage only applies if you are not a member of the same household.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Personal injury protection (PIP) is optional in most states but required in some states. After an accident, PIP will cover passengers regardless of fault. It doesn’t matter if your driver caused the accident or if the other driver caused the accident: PIP covers passenger medical bills regardless. Your PIP may have a deductible.

Medical Payments (MedPay): Medical payments coverage, or MedPay, functions like health insurance. If you are in an accident, then your driver’s medical payments coverage will cover the medical bills of passengers regardless of fault. Just like PIP, MedPay doesn’t analyze fault before covering medical bills.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage: If the other driver caused the accident, but the other driver does not have insurance, then your own driver’s uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage would cover your medical bills. This coverage would also apply in a hit-and-run. If the other driver is unknown or fled the scene, then uninsured motorist coverage should cover passenger medical bills.

Your Own Health Insurance: Your own health insurance should pay upfront for your medical treatment after an accident. Even if you are not covered by any of the coverages above, your own health insurance will cover your costs. However, you may have to pay deductibles and co-pays.

Which Insurance Pays First After an Accident?

Passenger car accident insurance claims can get messy. Passengers may be protected by multiple levels of insurance, and it’s not always clear which insurance policy gets activated first.

The rules about which insurance company pays first can be complicated. They also vary from state to state.

Contact the auto insurance companies involved in the accident. You can contact the insurance companies even as a passenger. You don’t have to go through the at-fault driver. Just call the insurance company and let them know you were a passenger in an accident involving their customer.

For most passengers, it doesn’t really matter which insurance company pays first. In many cases, insurance companies will cover your medical bills today and then seek compensation from other insurance companies. This process is called subrogation.

How to Make Sure You’re Covered as a Passenger: Top 3 Tips

Car accidents can lead to costly medical bills. As a passenger, it’s your responsibility to know you’re covered:

Get Insurance Information ASAP: After an accident, you’ll want to get insurance information from everyone involved in the accident. Get the names, phone numbers, and insurance information for the other driver, your own driver, and others involved in the accident. You’ll need this information later when filing a claim.

Carry Your Own Insurance: You may not be covered by your driver’s insurance policy. Don’t assume the driver even has insurance coverage. It’s your own responsibility to cover your own insurance needs. Make sure you have health insurance (or your own car insurance policy) before riding in a vehicle with anyone.

Consider Hiring an Attorney: Car accident insurance claims can get messy for passengers. In some cases, it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney. An attorney can fight for compensation on your behalf, securing every penny of compensation you are owed.

How to File a Car Insurance Claim as a Passenger

There are two ways to file an insurance claim as a passenger: you can file through your own driver’s insurance company; or, you can file through the other driver’s insurance company.

Filing a Claim with the Other Driver’s Insurer

If you are injured in an accident as a passenger, and the other driver is at-fault, then you can make a claim through the other driver’s insurance company.

Drivers in most states are required to carry a certain amount of bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage. Drivers in New York, for example, are required to carry $25,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person and $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident.

Contact the other driver’s insurance company. Tell them you were involved in an accident involving their customer. They’ll walk you through the claims process.

In some cases, the other driver may not have insurance. Or, bodily injury liability limits may be too low to cover the medical bills of anyone in your vehicle. In this situation, you may want to hire an attorney and sue the other driver.

Filing a Claim with your Driver’s Insurer

If your friend or driver caused the accident, then you can file a claim through their insurance company. This will be more convenient if they have the same insurance company as you.

The simplest way to file a claim is through your driver’s personal injury protection or medical payments coverage, which covers medical bills of passengers after an accident regardless of fault.

If your driver does not have PIP or MedPay, however, then you can file a claim through their bodily injury liability coverage.

Filing a Claim with your Own Insurance

If you are a passenger in a vehicle and are injured in a car accident, then you can also file a claim through your own insurance company. If your policy has PIP or MedPay, then you can use these coverages to pay your medical bills.

If you are struggling to make a claim through your own insurance company, or if you don’t want to affect a friend’s car insurance premiums, then you may want to make a claim on your own car insurance.

Final Word

Yes, passengers are covered by car insurance.

However, the type of protection varies based on who was at fault for the accident, which state the accident occurred in, and the types of insurance held by the driver.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
Back to Top