Let Our Experienced Car Accident Lawyers Explain Some Important Things You Need to Know if You Were a Passenger Injured in a Car Accident
A passenger in a car accident is required to prove both liability and a qualifying injury to recover damages. Proving liability means that you must establish that at least one of the drivers involved was responsible for the accident. As a result, whether your vehicle was hit from behind, or rammed by another driver who went through a red light or a stop sign, you are still required to prove how the accident happened, and the reason you believe that the defendant is responsible.
You must also prove that you suffered a qualifying injury in the accident. Although there are many common injuries that are caused by car accidents, you cannot recover damages unless you prove a qualifying injury that meets the threshold requirements set out under the law.
As a passenger, you are also entitled to No-Fault benefits. These important benefits will help pay for your accident related hospital, medical and other expenses. You are even entitled to lost earnings, if you establish that you could not work because of the injuries you sustained. Filing for No-Fault benefits is easy. Simply fill out a No Fault Application and get it to the right insurance company within 30 days, and you are covered.
What Are My Responsibilities As a Passenger?
Passengers are not usually responsible for car accidents because they are entitled to assume that their driver will use reasonable care to follow applicable traffic laws. While this is typically true, you also do have an obligation to exercise reasonable care. Reasonable care means the level of care that a reasonable passenger would have used under the same circumstances.
For example, if a driver is recklessly going through red lights, you may be required to use reasonable care for your own safety by trying to stop the dangerous driving. If a jury finds that you did not exercise reasonable care, you can be found negligent under New York’s comparative negligence rules.
The question of whether you, as a passenger, were potentially negligent is usually first considered by the Court. The judge will make an initial decision about whether there is enough evidence for a jury to consider blaming you at all. If the judge determines that you may have been careless, then the Court will allow the jury to decide your percentage of fault, if any.
The circumstances where a passenger might be found comparatively negligent are limited, but do exist. Take, for example, where a passenger gets into a vehicle with a drunk driver and is injured in an accident. The jury might be asked to consider whether the passenger was negligent for getting into a vehicle with a drunk driver. If the passenger was, or should have been aware of the driver’s impairment, the jury could find comparative fault, and reduce the award.
Is a Passenger Legally Required to Wear a Seat Belt?
Another common issue is whether the passenger was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. New York State law requires that all passengers “seated in a sitting position equipped with both a lap safety belt and a shoulder harness belt” must use both. This law is based on the well known fact that wearing seat belts saves lives.
As a result, insurance company lawyers will carefully go through your ambulance call report, or emergency room record to see if there is any evidence that you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. If it is found that you were not wearing a seatbelt, the jury can conclude that you were comparatively negligent, or even entirely at fault for your injuries.
Sometimes, a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt because there are no available seatbelts in the vehicle or they may be broken. If this is the case, the owner of the vehicle can be held responsible because the law requires all vehicles to be equipped with properly functioning seat belts.
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If you have any questions concerning your accident, contact our experienced car accident attorneys for more information by email or calling (800) 762-9300. You can also get started by simply filling out one of our car accident case intake forms, and we will have one of our attorneys get right back to you.
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