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Law Office of Steven R. Smith April 18, 2022

Passengers rely on the driver of their vehicle to take them safely to their destination. Unfortunately, an accident may occur and leave the passenger with injuries, missed time at work, and other losses. According to the preliminary report from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Accident Information System (AIS), there were 370,990 total traffic crashes statewide in 2021, causing 105,489 injuries and 1,029 fatalities.

Injured passengers in New York may be confused about what to do next, who to hold responsible, how to pursue damages, or how to file their injury claims. An experienced New York State personal injury attorney can enlighten you about the next steps to take as an injured passenger.  

At the Law Office of Steven R. Smith, we're committed to offering personalized legal guidance and reliable representation to injured passengers and their families in their accident cases. As your legal counsel, we can review and investigate all of the facts of your case and explore your possible legal options to recover damages. Our trusted team will fight compassionately to protect your best interests and help you seek fair financial compensation to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. We proudly serve clients in New York and Long Island, including Mineola, Hempstead, New Hyde Park, and Westbury.

Passenger Rights in a
New York Auto Accident

New York is a no-fault car insurance system. Under the rule, a person injured in a car accident will turn to their auto insurance policy to file injury claims and recover compensation for medical expenses and other financial losses related to the accident, regardless of the at-fault party.

As a result, every driver in New York State is required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. This is a form of insurance policy that provides compensation to accident victims. If you were hurt as a passenger in a New York traffic crash, you would enjoy the right to receive compensation as the injured driver.

Filing a Claim

As mentioned earlier, an injured passenger will turn to their driver's insurance policy to seek compensation available under the PIP coverage. However, in some circumstances, the injured passenger may be allowed to file a third-party insurance claim or lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault party if their injuries meet New York's "serious injury" threshold.

In order to be eligible, you must have suffered any of the following:

  • A permanent or significant limitation of the use of a body organ

  • Bone fracture

  • Significant disfigurement

  • Full disability for at least 90 days.

You can also file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party to recover compensation for vehicle damage. An experienced car accident lawyer can help file your injury claim and seek the maximum possible compensation for your injuries.

Passenger Liability

In an ideal situation, passengers are not usually responsible for the traffic crash and may be eligible to receive full compensation, regardless of the at-fault party. However, there are certain cases where the negligent or careless actions of a passenger might have caused safety issues that led to the accident. For example,

  • The passenger tried taking control of the car

  • The passenger distracted the driver by trying to show them something while driving

  • The passenger pushed the gas or brake pedals

  • The passenger damaged the vehicle

  • The passenger gave the driver drugs or alcohol before driving

  • The passenger encouraged the driver to drive recklessly

  • The passenger blinded the driver

Hence, if the passenger's actions contributed to the accident, this could impact the amount of compensation that may be recovered when filing a third-party insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party.

Percentage of Fault May
Determine Damages Received

Furthermore, New York State operates under the "pure comparative negligence" rule. According to this system, an injured passenger may be able to pursue damages even if they were partially or mostly responsible for the incident. However, the amount of compensation they may recover will be reduced by their percentage of fault. 

For instance, if the jury awarded $70,000 in total damages against the at-fault party but found you to be 30% responsible for the accident, your compensation will be reduced by $21,000. You will only recover 70% of $70,000 ($49,000). Under New York's pure comparative negligence principle, you will still be allowed to recover damages even if you were up to 99% liable for the auto accident or injury.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

Being involved in an accident caused by a negligent party's actions can be an emotional experience. Such an incident may affect your physical, financial, and mental health. Fortunately, injured passengers may be entitled to seek fair compensation by filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. However, keep in mind that both the driver and passenger may not be represented by the same law firm to avoid conflict of interest. It is crucial that you hire a skilled personal injury attorney to protect your best interests and help pursue the financial justice that you deserve.

At the Law Office of Steven R. Smith, I have the diligence and resources to guide clients in their personal injury cases. With my team’s in-depth knowledge and comprehensive understanding of state laws addressing liability in personal injury cases involving injured passengers, I can guide you through the often-complicated claims process.

Don't leave your fate in the hands of claims adjusters or insurance carriers who won't protect your best interest. Contact the Law Office of Steven R. Smith today to schedule a simple case evaluation with experienced car accident lawyers. Our trusted attorneys can offer you the detailed counsel and compassionate representation you need in your injury claims. We're proud to serve clients in New York and Long Island, including Mineola, Hempstead, New Hyde Park, and Westbury.