Can I Sue if I Was a Passenger in a Car Accident?
Thousands of passengers are severely injured in New York car accidents every year. After these accidents, these victims want to know: Can I bring a lawsuit to recover for my injuries? Who should be the target of my lawsuit? A talented New York personal injury lawyer can help you both identify the appropriate parties to sue and build your strongest claims after a car accident, whether you were a passenger or driver. Read on for how New York courts handle car accident claims brought by passengers.
New York’s no-fault insurance system
New York State has a “no-fault” insurance scheme. Under New York’s no-fault rules, in a typical car accident, an injured driver will be reimbursed for medical costs, lost wages, and other direct expenses by their own insurance company, regardless of who actually caused the accident. No-fault coverage is limited to direct, economic expenses resulting from a crash and does not include noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.
In order to get out of New York’s no-fault system and sue a driver directly, you must have suffered a “serious injury.” Serious injuries include bone fractures, partial or permanent disabilities, significant scarring, loss of a fetus, death, as well as several other forms of severe injury. If you suffer a serious injury, you can sue not only for economic damages but also for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, etc. The largest verdicts or settlements are typically based on these noneconomic damages.
What about passengers?
New York no-fault laws cover passengers as well as drivers. That means that if you are in an accident as a passenger, the insurance of the car you are riding in is meant to cover your injuries as well. Just like the driver, you file a claim with the car’s insurance company for your medical costs, lost wages, etc. And, like a driver, if you suffer a serious injury, you can go outside of the no-fault system and sue the at-fault driver. This includes suing the driver of the vehicle in which you were riding if they were at-fault for the accident.
If you were a passenger in a bus that was involved in a crash, then your own household car insurance is the no-fault carrier. If neither you nor any other household family members own a car with no-fault coverage, then you may pursue a claim against the bus’s no-fault insurance.
There are exceptions, such as if you were riding in a car that was uninsured or that you knew to be stolen. Ask your knowledgeable New York car accident attorney for help to determine whether you have an insurance claim or the right to sue in these more complicated situations.
If you or someone you love has been hurt by someone else’s negligence in New York, find out if you’re entitled to money damages for your injuries by contacting the dedicated and effective Bronx offices of the Kohn Law Firm for a free consultation at 718-409-1200.