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Can I sue the driver of the vehicle if I am a passenger?

If you’ve recently been a part of an accident in which you were not the driver, you might be wondering what your legal rights are. As it turns out, the passengers of a vehicle have rights that are separate from the driver’s. Although passenger injury claims are similar to standard personal injury claims, they are unique enough to warrant their own discussion. Although a NYC personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the specifics of your case, this overview should help you understand some of the key differences between a personal injury case and a passenger injury case.

Proving a Passenger Injury Claim

In order to successfully prove a passenger injury claim in court, the plaintiff must show both that the defendant was at fault and that damages occurred. This allows the plaintiff to establish liability, as well as an estimation of the monetary value of their injuries. In the event that two cars were involved in the accident, then at least one will almost assuredly be deemed at fault.

By contrast though, the driver in a one car accident is only generally held liable. Depending on the circumstances surrounding a one car accident, such as a collision with a tree or other obstacle, the driver may or may not be held liable for any injuries that the passenger sustained. The key determining factor here is whether or not the driver was faced with something that a reasonable person might not expect. For instance, if a deer jumps out onto the road, it’s not unreasonable that a driver might react and collide with the deer or something else nearby. While it’s ultimately up to the court, cases like this generally don’t find the driver to have been negligent.

Filing a Passenger Injury Claim

If you think that you might have a case, then it’s recommended that you speak to a NYC personal injury lawyer first and foremost. At the time of the accident though, it’s important to get the insurance information of any drivers that may later be held liable. In a multi-car accident, the passenger will generally want to take the information of any drivers involved, unless some were obviously not being negligent during the accident. For instance, if someone was rear-ended for no apparent reason, then there’s little chance that they will be held liable for any injuries that a passenger sustained.

If the accident occurred in a “no fault” state, then the passenger would need to file a Personal Injury Protection or No Fault claim instead. Once the passenger’s medical treatment has been taken care of, the claim will be ready for negotiation and settlement.

Of course, insurance companies can also make the process unnecessarily complicated, if they believe that their driver was only partially at fault. In situations like this, negotiations will be focused less on how much the passenger is owed and instead on how much each driver individually owes towards that settlement amount. For instance, if each insurance company only believes that their driver is accountable for 25% of the damages, then that would only amount to 50% of the passenger’s injuries being paid for. Again, having a knowledgeable attorney by your side can help to speed up these negotiations and ensure that you receive the money you’re owed within a reasonable time frame.

Handling Multiple Passenger Injury Claims

When multiple passengers are injured from a single accident, this can create complications. Since each passenger must receive money from the driver’s limited insurance pool, there needs to be an agreement as to how much each person is owed. In a way similar to the previous example, each passenger must individually reach an agreement as to how much of the driver’s insurance money they should receive, or else the insurance company will refuse to pay out anyone. This can result in yet another suit to determine how much each person is owed, and can lengthen proceedings considerably before anyone is given the money they’re owed.

Filing Your Own Passenger Injury Claim

As with most court proceedings, an attorney can help you navigate the intricacies of your case and determine what your next steps should be. Given the amount of negotiations that commonly occur in these types of cases, it’s worth having someone on your side that can take care of them for you and ensure that you’re given a fair deal for the damages you’ve sustained.

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