Making a Passenger Injury Claim After a Car Accident in New York

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
passenger injured in car accident

If you're like most people, you don't think about what would happen if you were injured in a car accident.

But, crashes happen every day. (On average there were more than 300 collisions in NYC every day last year).

And when they do, you need to know how to protect your rights and get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, personal injuries, and all the damages you have — for will — incur as a result of the wreck.

Often we think of the driver suffering injuries, however, recent data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that occupants of passenger vehicles (including cars, minivans, pickups, SUVs, and cargo/large passenger vans) account for more than 25% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities every year.

In New York, a passenger who is injured in a crash has the right to pursue compensation by making a passenger injury claim.

The question is who you file the insurance claim against, and how much is your case worth.

In this article, you’ll learn about the passenger injury claim process including the legal rights passengers have after a car crash, what to do after an accident, and why hiring a New York City car accident lawyer can help you recover maximum compensation.

If you have questions about passenger injury claims or would like to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about your claim, we can help. Call 212-268-3222 today or contact us online for a free consultation.

What are my rights as an injured passenger in a car accident in New York?

After a car accident in New York, injured passengers may entitle to compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages through multiple sources, (1) from their driver's insurance policy under New York's no-fault laws, (2) from their own insurance policy (even if it wasn't their car wasn't involved), and (3) if they suffered a "serious injury" under New York law a fault-based lawsuit could be filed directly against the at-fault party.

When you ride in a vehicle as a passenger and get into a wreck, even if you haven’t suffered a serious bodily injury, you may be eligible to recover compensation for medical payments, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all other damages caused by the crash.

If the driver of the vehicle you are in is at fault, injured passengers will most likely file their personal injury claim against the driver’s car insurance policy under their personal injury protection (PIP) plan or against the at-fault driver.

If both drivers are at fault, injured occupants can file a car accident claim against both drivers.

Passengers can file claims against the driver, even if the driver is a family member who lives in the same house.

Many people are reluctant to file a claim against a friend or family member. Your claim is not filed against a friend or relative but the motorist’s insurance coverage.

Determining if your injury qualifies as a "serious injury" under New York law, and identifying the best legal strategy to recover maximum compensation can be complicated. This is where hiring a car accident attorney can come in helpful.

An experienced law firm that only handles personal injury claims will be able to quickly identify the best strategy to recover compensation based on your unique situation. At Raphaelson & Levine, we've spent over twenty-five years providing accident victims with a voice while recovering some of the largest car accident verdicts and settlements in New York.

Can I claim personal injury as a passenger?

Yes, a passenger can file a passenger injury claim in New York.

Even if the accident seemingly did not cause injuries, you should seek medical attention immediately after an accident. Some accident injuries do not manifest for hours or even days later.

For at least two weeks after an accident that seemingly had no injuries, keep an eye on your emotional and physical condition. Keeping a journal helps determine if you feel different and if you should seek additional medical care.

Injuries that might not be readily apparent include whiplash and muscle injuries. You could also have internal injuries and emotional injuries and not realize it.

Additional injuries might include:

  • Cuts, scrapes, scratches, bumps, and bruises.
  • Strains, sprains, pulled muscles, torn muscles, and other soft tissue injuries.
  • Simple and compound fractures and crushed bones.
  • Face and eye injuries.
  • Head, shoulder, and neck injuries.
  • Traumatic brain injuries, including mild concussions.
  • Back and spinal cord injuries.
  • Internal injuries.
  • Road rash.
  • Chemical and thermal burns.

Recovering maximum compensation in a passenger injury claim

Recovering compensation after a car accident begins with proving all of your damages to an insurance company.

Getting a copy of the police report, proof of lost wages, and your medical bills is the start to building a solid claim. In most cases, this would be the best time to hire a personal injury attorney. But why?

With over thirty years of experience handling injury claims in New York City, we’ve seen too many individuals try to take on insurance companies alone and get taken serious advantage of.

In car accident cases, documentation and evidence play a critical role in the amount of money you may be awarded. Police reports can be wrong (we’ve seen it happen, a lot), witnesses can make honest mistakes, other motorists can lie to avoid fault.

A New York personal injury attorney can help you recover the damages you deserve.

Even if you did not suffer physical injuries, you may be eligible to recover damages for emotional injuries. Some people develop anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder if the accident is traumatic.

Even an auto accident that did not cause much damage to a vehicle could be traumatic for some. For example, your husband is the driver of the car, and you are in the front seat. Your baby is in a child safety seat in the rear.

Another driver runs a red light and t-bones you. All you can think of is your baby is hurt. And, all you can picture is the front of the other car smashing into the side of your car and crushing your baby.

Even if the baby did not suffer any physical injuries, just the thought of him being injured – even if that thought was just for a few seconds until you saw the baby was fine – could cause emotional scars that require therapy.

You could recover damages for therapy expenses after the accident, although neither you nor the baby suffered more than a few bruises.

How to file a passenger injury claim in New York

If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident, you could file a passenger injury claim in one of three ways:

  • File a passenger injury claim with the other driver's insurance company.
  • File a claim through your insurance policy.
  • File a claim through your driver's insurance policy.

We recommend contacting a car accident lawyer in New York to help you file a claim.

Insurance companies do not like to pay out claims, affecting their bottom lines. They will find a way to either deny your claim or offer you a pittance. Instead of taking a chance on not recovering the compensation you deserve, let one of our car accident lawyers help you file a claim.

Additionally, you should file a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance. However, suppose the at-fault driver's insurance is not enough to cover all of the compensation you deserve. In that case, you can file a partial claim against your driver's insurance or your insurance policy.

You could file claims through the personal injury protection or Med Pay policy riders if you elected to have either one or both.

Types of compensation available in passenger personal injury claims

If you're injured in a car accident, you may be able to file a passenger injury claim to receive compensation for your injuries. New York law sorts compensation in personal injury settlements and verdicts into two categories, economic and non-economic.

Economic damages for injured passengers

Most people, including passengers, can recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages after a car accident.

If the accident were traumatic, the accident injuries would cause permanent disabilities, or you lost a loved one in a car accident, you could recover compensatory damages in the form of non-economic damages.

Economic damages have a monetary value and include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, replacement of personal property destroyed or damaged in the accident, and funeral expenses.

Depending on the insurance company, you might have to claim damaged personal property with your homeowner's insurance rather than with your auto insurance or the at-fault driver's auto insurance.

Non-economic damages for injured passengers

Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. No one can put a  price on long-term or permanent disabilities, psychological disabilities caused by an accident, or the loss of a loved one. The money does not bring back a loved one or eliminate injuries, but it does significantly reduce the financial stress caused by the aftermath.

Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering, which includes emotional distress.
  • Loss of quality of life if you must use ambulatory aids or take prescriptions for the rest of your life.
  • Loss of consortium and companionship.
  • Loss of use of a body part or bodily function, including loss of a hand or your bladder.
  • Inconvenience, if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as house cleaning and grocery shopping.
  • Excessive scarring and disfigurement, such as that from severe burns.
  • Amputation of a limb or digit.

Crashes involving only property damage

In New York, those involved in accidents do not have to file a police report if the accident only included property damage. However, if injuries show up later, you might have trouble recovering damages.

Though the law does not require it, you should always call the police and file a police report as the report proves that you were in a vehicle accident and preserves evidence, including the at-fault drivers' contact and insurance information.

What to do after a car accident as a passenger

After an accident, if you think you can move without causing additional injury, you should take these six steps to start documenting the wreck, including:

  1. Check on others involved in the wreck and call first responders.
  2. Take pictures of the accident. Be sure to take photos from all angles and include damage to the road and property near the accident.
  3. Allow emergency medical technicians to check you over, even if you feel your injuries are mild.
  4. Give the police your statement.
  5. Ask all drivers involved for their contact information, insurance information, and registration information. If possible, take photos of driver's licenses, insurance cards, and registrations.
  6. Obtain contact information from all witnesses. You can also ask witnesses what they saw and take notes.

After the police release you from the scene, seek medical attention immediately. Start keeping a journal about the accident and how you feel in the days after the accident. If you suffered injuries, document your injuries and recovery progress.

Finally, contact a personal injury lawyer at Raphaelson & Levine for a free case evaluation.

Questions about making a passenger injury claim in New York? We can help

As a passenger, you have more than one option to recover compensation after a car accident in which you were a passenger.

Insurance rules and New York’s laws governing personal injury are complex.

In most cases, hiring an experienced car accident attorney will help you recover more damages than trying to negotiate with an insurance company directly.

If you have been injured as a passenger in a car accident in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, or Staten Island, we can help.

We encourage you to take advantage of our free case evaluation to discuss your situation with an experienced auto accident attorney at Raphaelson & Levine. We can present the best available options for your situation and develop a legal plan to recover damages.

Our responsive New York City accident attorneys handle every aspect of your claim and ensure you always know what’s going on throughout your case.

Call 212-268-3222 today or contact us online for a free case evaluation.
Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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