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What Happens When You Have To Bring A Claim Against Your Own Family Member?

Love is all you need—until you get into an accident. Then you need money, possibly a whole lot of it, to pay for medical bills, time off work, and other damages caused by that accident.

But what if the person who’s liable for the accident is your own family member? Do you really have to choose between paying your medical bills and keeping the peace with your family?

If your parent, sibling, or even spouse was at fault for an accident that injured you, you may have to have to name them in a lawsuit. But when you file a lawsuit in a civil case, you’re not necessarily going after the personal assets of the person who’s named as the defendant. In accident cases, with a few rare exceptions, insurance companies aren’t named in lawsuits; although the court documents look like you’re suing a person, you’re really asking for compensation from an insurance corporation.

What If You Were A Passenger In A Vehicle Your Family Member Was Driving?

If the person who caused the accident was your minor child or your spouse, you probably share an auto insurance policy. But even if the two of you are a marital unit or close relatives, since you didn’t cause the accident, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver to get money from that driver’s liability coverage.

Liability coverage is a shared bucket. That means that anyone injured in a crash (with the exception of the driver who was at fault for the collision) will both be competing for the same pool of money.

Let’s say that your accident resulted in high damages, more than your family member’s liability insurance could cover. If your auto insurance policy includes Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage, usually called UM or UIM, then that coverage can stack on top of what you’ve already received to make up for what’s missing from liability.

If the family member who was at fault in the accident shares a vehicle insurance plan with you, you can also get some bills covered through your policy’s Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, plan. PIP is a payment made by your own insurance carrier that will cover certain expenses no matter how the accident happens. You and your family member both have a limit on how much PIP will payout, but it’s not a shared bucket between the two of you; each of you has your own bucket.

If you have health insurance, you should also use it to get necessary medical treatments as soon as possible.

If Your Family Member Was Also Injured, Can They File A Claim Against You?

Only people who are not liable for causing an injury can be compensated through liability insurance. If your family member was the one who caused the accident, and they are found to be liable for it, they can’t turn around and file a claim with your insurance company.

This doesn’t mean that your family member has no way of getting their own medical bills paid. If they have car insurance in Washington state, it’s likely that their policy probably includes Personal Injury Protection, or PIP.

If your family member has health insurance, that can provide another layer of coverage for necessary medical treatments.

What If You Were Driving A Different Vehicle When Your Family Member Hit You?

If you were driving one vehicle and your family member was driving a different one, you can still file a claim for damages and request payment from their liability insurance. You can also get some expenses paid through your PIP coverage.

What If You Were Injured In Your Family Member’s Home?

Homeowner’s insurance covers many different types of injuries that can happen when someone visits another person’s home. It can also cover some injuries that occur away from the home but involve the homeowner’s property. For instance, homeowner’s insurance can pay for damages after the homeowner’s dog bites someone, even if that bite happened in a public park or in someone else’s house.

If you were in the home of a family member who rents rather than owning property, they may have a renter’s insurance policy that can cover a similar range of damages. However, renters are not legally required to carry this kind of insurance in Washington state, so there’s no guarantee that your relative has this kind of policy. If you were injured as a result of an issue with your family member’s building that the landlord should have fixed, it’s possible that you may also be able to file a claim against that landlord’s building insurance.

Homeowner’s insurance can cover a wide variety of injuries, including:

  • Dog bites
  • Injuries caused by falling in an unsafe area on the property
  • Injuries caused by a part of the building falling on them as a result of the homeowner’s negligence

Homeowner’s insurance does not cover certain injuries if they occur in your own home. For instance, if you and your spouse own a dog together and that dog bites you, you can’t file a claim against your own homeowner’s insurance. But if your cousin or your adult child owns a dog and that dog bites you, you can file a claim against your cousin (assuming you don’t live in the same house that’s covered under a single homeowner’s insurance policy).

Chris Davis
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Chris Davis is the founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.