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Passenger Injuries in a Queens Car Accident: Rights and Liability

| Mar 30, 2020 | Car Accidents, Injuries, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Personal Injury

Understanding the Rights and Liability of Passenger Injuries in a Queens Car Accident

Passengers injured in a motor vehicle accident may have rights to compensation, even if the vehicle they were in was at fault for the crash. But passenger injuries in an NYC car accident bring about a unique set of rights that should be examined by our Queens car accident lawyers. There are some common pitfalls and exceptions which may limit or bar a passenger’s claim. In addition, a passenger may need his or her own lawyer in a New York car accident because there may be a conflict of interest with the driver’s interests. This means that it can be very important to have an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer for cases involving passenger injuries in a Queens car accident.

Here at COHEN & COHEN PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS, P.C. , we are that experienced and knowledgable choice. Our law firm has built a practice around representing victims and their families who have suffered serious personal injuries due to the negligence of others. We work hard to protect the rights of victims to ensure they recover the compensation that they may be entitled to under New York law. This includes recovering compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings, loss of consortium, property damage, and other damages related to the personal injury accident. Passenger injuries in a Queens car accident may be entitled to these forms of compensation.

Common Passenger Issues in a Queens Car Accident

When a passenger is injured in a motor vehicle accident, some special issues and factors must be considered. These considerations may bar or limit compensation, or affect a passenger’s choice of lawyers. Here are some of the most common issues with passenger injuries in a Queens car accident:

1) Is the Passenger also the Vehicle Owner?

Owners or vehicles have special duties and obligations, whereas passengers do not necessarily have any of these obligations.  If a passenger in a vehicle with the negligent driver who caused the motor vehicle accident is also the owner of the negligent vehicle, there may be some very unique legal issues. This is because New York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 388 provides that the owner of a vehicle is liable for any personal injuries or wrongful death of another caused by a permissive use driver. If the passenger is the owner of the car and is in the vehicle with another person who is driving, it is presumed that the driver is driving with the permission of the owner who is in the car. This means that, even if the passenger was just sleeping in the car, if the negligent driver causes a motor vehicle accident the passenger may still be liable under VTL section 388.

In a situation such as this, an experienced Queens car accident lawyer may be necessary to limit the exposure of the passenger. Usually, an insurance company will appoint a different lawyer for the driver and passenger, and sometimes the passenger will even have two lawyers (one to defend as the owner and one to prosecute as a victim).

2) Comparative Fault for a Passenger: Passengers Generally Have No Liability, Except . . .

Comparative fault is the legal concept that victims will be responsible for their percentage of fault for their injuries. A victim’s award will be reduced by the direct percentage of his or her fault. For example, if a victim is awarded $100,000 but was found to be 20% at fault, the total award may be reduced to $80,000.

Generally, a passenger in a motor vehicle accident has no liability for the crash. This is because the passenger is not in control of the motor vehicle since a passenger cannot turn the wheel, brake, use indicators, or otherwise control the vehicle. This means that a passenger usually can collect 100% of his or her damages.

However, if a passenger causes or contributes to a car accident, he or she may be at fault. Some ways that a passenger may contribute to a car accident and be partially at fault include the following:

  • Signaling at the other motorist to go (yielding right-of-way)
  • Grabbing at the wheel
  • Telling the driver to go when it was not safe
  • Distracting the driver
  • Blocking the driver’s view
  • Hitting, striking, shaking, or otherwise interfering with the driver’s use and operation of the vehicle, or
  • Other conduct which may cause a motor vehicle accident.

3) Seatbelt use of a Passenger

New York has a doctrine known as the “seatbelt defense” which allows a defendant to reduce a victim’s damages by what he or she would have suffered if he or she had been wearing a seatbelt. This is because New York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1229-c requires all motorists in the front seat to be wearing a seatbelt and all minors in the back seat to wear a seatbelt or be in the appropriate safety harness/car seat. This means an adult passenger in the front seat who is not wearing his or her seatbelt may be comparatively at fault or have damages reduced by the seatbelt defense.

4) Sometimes, Passengers May Not Have the Same Lawyer as a Driver

Where a passenger has no liability for a Queens car accident and the driver may have caused or contributed to the crash, a passenger and the driver may not always be able to be represented by the same law firm. This is because the passenger may have to assert a claim against the driver. Even if the passenger and driver are spouses, they still may not be able to be represented by the same law firm. This can be a huge issue if a lawyer misses this because it may bar some relief to the clients. There are, however, instances where a driver and passenger may be represented by the same law firm. This can be complicated and should be addressed by an experienced Queens car accident lawyer.

Passenger Injuries in a Queens Car Accident Should be Reviewed by Our Law Firm

Our experienced Queens car accident lawyers at COHEN & COHEN PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS, P.C. know that passenger injuries in a Queens car accident still require a high amount of care and attention. Some law firms treat passenger injury cases as easy cases, but that is not always the case. Many defense lawyers are very sophisticated and will do everything in their power to reduce or lower your award. Do not let that happen. Ask our aggressive NYC car accident law firm to help protect your rights to compensation. Learn more about how we can help protect your rights to compensation after a motor vehicle accident by calling 800-247-8164 for a FREE case evaluation or use our convenient and easy-to-use contact us box available here.

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