Can a Passenger Recover UM Benefits in a Single-Vehicle Crash?

single vehicle crash

Motorists who suffer injuries in single-vehicle crashes in New York will typically turn to their own personal injury protection (PIP) policies for coverage after the accident. Those who suffer serious injuries, as defined by New York state law, may also be entitled to file a claim or lawsuit against the person who caused the accident. 

But what if you are a passenger who was injured in a single-vehicle crash? Do you turn to your own auto insurance policy, the driver’s policy, or the at-fault party’s policy? Below, we will discuss how passengers can recover benefits after being involved in a car accident in New York. 

New York is a No-Fault State for Auto Insurance

New York is one of a handful of “no-fault” states that require most motorists who are injured in car accidents to turn to their own personal injury protection (PIP) policies for coverage, regardless of who caused the accident. New York auto insurance laws require all motorists to carry at least $50,000 in PIP coverage. PIP pays for medical expenses and lost wages up to the policyholder’s policy limits. 

In New York, motorists can only step outside the no-fault auto insurance system if they suffer a serious injury. In that case, they can directly file a claim against the at-fault party. New York’s no-fault rule also applies to passengers who are injured in motor vehicle accidents. 

Passengers Can File a Claim with the Driver’s No-Fault Policy

Passengers who are injured in motor vehicle accidents can file a claim with the PIP policy for the car they were riding in. For instance, if you are riding in a car with your friend and you get into an accident that results in injuries, you can file a claim with your friend’s no-fault policy. This is true whether your friend caused the accident or not. 

Under your friend’s PIP policy, you can seek compensation for medical costs and lost income up to your friend’s policy limits. PIP does not cover non-financial damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish. 

If you were riding with a family member, such as a parent or sibling, it’s possible that you are both insured under the same no-fault policy. In that case, you should be able to recover the benefits you need, up to the policy limits. 

What if Multiple Passengers Were Injured? 

If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident in New York and multiple passengers were injured in the accident, then things could get a bit murkier. While New York’s no-fault auto insurance laws are meant to reduce the number of third-party claims that insurance companies have to deal with, they also have some disadvantages. If multiple passengers were injured in an accident, then you will have to split coverage with the other passengers, up to the motorist’s policy limits. 

While the bare minimum $50,000 PIP policy might cover minor injury-related expenses for 2-3 passengers, it may not be sufficient if the injuries are more severe or if more passengers are injured. For instance, if six passengers are injured in a single-vehicle accident and the driver only has basic no-fault coverage, it’s possible that none of the passengers will get the full coverage they need. In general, coverage will be divided amongst the passengers according to the seriousness of each passenger’s injuries. 

Without adequate coverage, you and other passengers could face significant out-of-pocket costs. However, there are other potential coverage options that you could turn to apart from the driver’s no-fault insurance.

Passengers with Serious Injuries Can Pursue a Claim Against the At-Fault Driver

As is the case for drivers, passengers with serious injuries can step outside the no-fault system and file a claim directly against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. For example, if you were seriously injured in an accident that was caused by another vehicle, the driver of that vehicle would be responsible for compensating you. 

While filing an insurance claim is often the first step, if the at-fault driver’s insurance company fails to make a fair settlement offer or refuses to negotiate a settlement in good faith, then you could go on to file a personal injury lawsuit against the motorist who caused the accident. Through a personal injury lawsuit, you could recover additional compensation that is not available under no-fault coverage, including compensation for your non-financial losses like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life. 

It can be tricky to determine what qualifies as a serious accident, but an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you find out if you are eligible to step outside New York’s no-fault rules. 

Passengers Could Also File a Claim with Their Own Auto Insurance

If you were injured as a passenger in a car accident, you might be able to file a claim with your own auto insurance provider as well, even if you were hurt while riding in someone else’s vehicle. In addition to seeking coverage through the driver’s no-fault insurance and the at-fault party’s auto insurance (if another driver caused the crash and you suffered serious injuries), you could also seek coverage through your own policy if you have MedPay. 

It can take time for insurance companies to process claims. Depending on how urgent your medical needs are, you might need to obtain coverage quickly. While you are waiting on other claims to be processed, MedPay will cover your medical expenses as your medical bills start to pile up. 

What If the Motorists Involved in the Crash Are Underinsured or Uninsured? 

While there are minimum auto insurance requirements that apply to all New York drivers, not all motorists carry the appropriate amount of coverage, and some drivers don’t have coverage at all. If you’re a passenger who was injured in a motor vehicle accident involving underinsured or uninsured drivers, you might not be able to get the coverage you need through their auto insurance policies. 

If the driver of your vehicle is not adequately insured, or if you suffered a serious injury and the at-fault motorist lacks sufficient coverage, then you might be able to seek compensation through uninsured motorist (UM) coverage if you have auto insurance. In New York, all motorists are required to purchase $25,000 per person in UM coverage as part of their car insurance policy, as well as $50,000 per accident. If you wish, you can purchase more coverage for added protection in case you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. 

If the motorists involved don’t have enough coverage to pay for your expenses, UM insurance can be a lifesaver for passengers injured in car accidents. The bottom line is that as a passenger, you have numerous potential options for coverage after an accident, including the driver’s no-fault coverage, the at-fault motorist’s auto insurance policy (in serious injury cases), as well as your own UM coverage if you have auto insurance.

Contact Finz & Finz, P.C. 

If you are a passenger who was injured in a car accident in New York, contact Finz & Finz, P.C. today for a free consultation. We will help you identify all possible sources of compensation and work tirelessly to help you seek the benefits you deserve. Contact us at 855-TOP-FIRM. for a free consultation with a New York City car accident lawyer.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.