Passenger in a Car Accident

passenger injured in a car accident
Posted: February 13, 2024

Can passengers hurt in motor vehicle accidents be compensated for medical expenses, lost wages, and bodily injuries—including pain and suffering—incurred as a result?  

The answer is yes. Drivers of motor vehicles owe passengers a “duty of care” to operate the car safely. When the driver fails to do so, harming a vehicle passenger, that can give rise to a viable claim. Because New York is a comparative-negligence state, the fault for an accident can be–and often is– shared, with everyone who’s injured being compensated commensurate with how much they’re found to have contributed to the accident. New York’s comparative fault rule is much different than the “contributory fault” rule effective in some other states, which could eliminate someone’s right to be compensated for injuries sustained in an accident if that person contributed even a little to the accident. Most states have now opted against this harsh rule.  

So, a passenger who’s found to be 75 percent responsible for a collision would receive three-quarters of the compensation he’d be due if he were blameless. This kind of math is baked into New York’s comparative-negligence law, which allows for a passenger to sue for injuries sustained in an accident to which other people contribute. As a practical matter, New York motor vehicle passengers very seldom bear comparative fault for the crash. In theory, a passenger who physically interferes with the driver or blocks the vision of a driver also might contribute to a collision so as to warrant a finding of comparative fault. Passengers who knowingly allow a drunk driver to operate a vehicle that crashes also may be found partly liable for the injuries. As a general rule, comparative fault does not bar recovery; it just diminishes it.  

What if more than one car is involved?

Passengers who suffer injuries in accidents involving two or more cars can seek compensation for injuries from any driver whose conduct contributed to the crash and resulting injuries. Passengers injured in single-car accidents, such as when a car hits a pole or tree, also may be able to hold the driver liable for their damages.  

Since New York is a no-fault state, an injured passenger can file a PIP (Personal Injury Protection) or “no-fault” claim with the applicable insurance company. This allows the injured person to receive compensation for “basic economic loss.” Sometimes more than one insurance company may be responsible for paying no-fault benefits.   

No-fault insurance is mandatory in New York; to register a car in the state, you must have auto insurance that includes no-fault coverage. 

No-fault insurance pays medical bills and reimburses you for some lost earnings and other costs you incur if you’re hurt in a traffic accident, even if you caused it. Which means the no-fault insurance company compensates you for injuries you sustain in your own car, either as the driver or a passenger, so that you don’t have to wait on or negotiate with other parties involved in the crash. It beats haggling over who’s to blame and who should compensate whom. 

There are a couple of catches, though. No-fault benefits don’t cover vehicle damage or compensate you for pain and suffering. And you must apply for them by completing and submitting a three-page form—the New York Motor Vehicle No-Fault Insurance Law Application for Motor Vehicle No-Fault Benefits—within 30 days of the accident. 

A no-fault claim differs from a bodily injury claim. Someone who makes a no-fault claim may still be entitled to compensation for medical expenses and lost wages that does not qualify as “basic economic loss.” This can be combined with the claim for pain and suffering.  

What if you’re a passenger in a car accident? 

You might feel okay right after an accident even if you’re hurt because shock, confusion, and adrenaline can mask injuries at first.  If you suspect injury, it is generally a good idea to your doctor for a complete examination. Besides receiving needed medical care, you’ll have medical records to document your accident-related injuries. This can be important if you want to make a bodily-injury claim against the liable driver down the line. 

Passengers have the same rights as anyone injured in a car accident 

A bodily-injury claim is different and separate from a no-fault insurance claim. No-fault insurance laws generally preclude injured passengers from bringing lawsuits to obtain compensation for pain and suffering or other damages unless that passenger has suffered serious injuries, as defined in New York Insurance Law, Section 5102(d). The law in this area can get complicated. An experienced attorney can help to explain how a bodily injury liability claim contrasts from a no-fault insurance claim.  

Hurt while a passenger in a car? Call William Mattar. 

If you’ve been injured riding in a car that crashed, the experienced passenger-accident attorneys at the William Mattar law offices can protect your rights and advocate for you to receive maximum compensation while you recover from your injuries. Just call us, at 844-444-4444, or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation. As you might imagine, determining who owes what to whom after an accident involving passengers can be a complicated and sometimes contentious process. You can count on us to help you achieve maximum compensation. 

Our attorneys focus on motor vehicle accidents and have handled many passenger-injury cases. They know how to negotiate with insurance companies and how to advocate for your maximum compensation. 

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