Are Passengers Covered by Car Insurance in New York?
Passengers cannot be held accountable for car accidents with very few exceptions.
As a result, if you were injured as a passenger in New York, there is good news: it is quite probable that someone else is liable for your injuries.
And who is it? Where are you going? Are passengers covered by auto insurance in New York?
It’s a difficult question to answer. In general, let’s look at the solution in the area below.
New York is a State with No-Fault Insurance
New York, unlike many other states, has no-fault auto insurance. In our state, regardless of who caused a vehicle collision, each driver’s auto insurance coverage will pay their individual personal injury damages (but not pain and suffering).
The same law of no-fault applies to injured passengers as well. In the following sections, we will examine how this rule applies in various contexts.
In New York, passengers must file a no-fault claim under the vehicle’s insurance policy.
Let’s start with the rule of thumb. If you are wounded as a passenger, you must make a no-fault insurance claim against the vehicle’s insurance coverage.
Therefore, if your friend is driving you around town and is involved in an accident, you must file a claim under your friend’s auto insurance policy, regardless of who caused the collision.
If the driver is a relative, you may be covered under the same auto insurance policy. Again, regardless of who was at fault, this coverage will cover your personal injury damages (up to policy limitations). However, the insurance coverage does not cover pain and suffering.
If multiple passengers are injured, they will all be required to contribute to the policy’s payout.
New York implemented the no-fault vehicle insurance providers in an attempt to reduce the number of auto accident lawsuits. In certain circumstances, the law also makes it more difficult for accident victims to obtain the necessary compensation.
Consider the scenario in which you are traveling in an SUV with seven passengers. Personal Injury Protection (PIP) auto insurance is required by law and covers the driver and all passengers.
But what if the driver only purchased the minimum coverage? There is a considerable likelihood that it will not be sufficient to cover all seven accident victims. Even if the driver purchased an above-average PIP policy, it may not be sufficient to cover all passengers.
This can be an issue even when only one or two persons are harmed in an accident.
The insurance company will not pay anything beyond the policy’s limits. In general, the injured passengers must share the cost of recovery (apportioned according to the severity of their injuries). As we shall see, however, there are exceptions.
If there are serious injuries, the passenger can also file a claim directly against the driver or drivers at fault.
If you have a “severe injury” as a passenger in New York, you can opt out of the no-fault auto insurance provision, allowing you to file a fault-based case directly against the negligent party.
Your case may seek compensation for both property loss and personal injury, including pain and suffering.
It might be difficult to determine whether an injury qualifies as “severe” under New York’s no-fault regulations. Consult with an expert auto accident attorney to evaluate if you have a case against the irresponsible driver.
Even if it wasn’t their vehicle that was involved in the accident, the passenger may be able to file a claim on his or her own auto insurance policy.
We have thus far discussed the passenger’s claim against the car owner’s insurance provider. However, there are sometimes multiple answers to the question “Are passengers insured by auto insurance?”
Suppose Sam is driving his friend Gerald around town when he is involved in an accident. Liza, the other driver, was speeding and is to blame for the collision. Gerald sustains severe injuries. What are Gerald’s possibilities?
- As the injured passenger, Gerald can submit a no-fault claim under Sam’s motor insurance policy (subject to Sam’s policy limits) to cover his personal injuries.
- Due to the severity of his injuries, Gerald can also sue Liza and her insurance company for any personal injury damages that exceed Sam’s policy limitations. He can also sue Liza for pain and suffering damages.
- Gerald may also be able to file a claim under his own motor insurance policy if he has one. If this policy contains Medical Payments (“MedPay”) coverage, Gerald’s medical expenditures will be paid when they are incurred. This is essential, as Gerald’s doctors may not be prepared to wait for his claims against Sam’s and Liza’s insurance to be resolved.
- Gerald may be eligible for Sam’s MedPay coverage if Gerald and Sam are related and insured under the same policy.
What If There Is Insufficient Insurance Coverage or No Coverage at All?
What happens if you get serious injuries but neither the driver nor the passenger has enough vehicle insurance to cover the costs?
Unfortunately, a sizable minority of New Yorkers break the law by driving without vehicle insurance. Several others barely meet the legal requirements, carrying only a minimal minimum of coverage.
Your options in this instance will be determined by the nature and circumstances of the accident:
- You may, for example, have a claim against a third party.
- Or, if you have insurance but the other driver does not, you may be eligible to claim under your Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage policy.
- If the at-fault drivers have sufficient personal assets to cover your damages, you could alternatively choose to sue them personally.
- Lastly, you may be eligible for benefits through the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation of the State of New York (MVAIC). MVAIC coverage eligibility is a complex topic, and navigating the system can be difficult. Contact a Kingston auto accident attorney at O’Connor and Partners if you have questions regarding submitting a claim with MVAIC as an injured passenger in New York.
Bottom Line: Are Passengers Covered by Car Insurance? Yes. But Insurance Claims Get Complicated Quickly.
There is a lot to learn about your rights, choices, and limitations after getting injured as a passenger in New York. Don’t make any assumptions about
your insurance policy. Consult an experienced attorney instead.