Do you remember the case involving the “aunt from hell?” It was a personal injury lawsuit filed by an aunt against her nephew for injuries suffered when he jumped into her arms, which knocked her over and injured her, at a birthday party. The media dubbed the aunt the “aunt from hell” because they were shocked that a close relative would sue a small child. What most media reports failed to tell everyone is that it is actually common to sue close relatives or friends, especially when insurance coverage issues are at play. The one area where this is perhaps most common is spouses suing each other after a car accident.
Think about it. Who do you spend most of your time in the car with? The answer is probably your spouse. Thus, the risk of being involved in a car accident with him or her, in which the driving spouse is totally or partially at fault, is quite high. If your insurance company is refusing to compensate you and/or your spouse for your injuries, what are you to do? If it was anyone but your spouse, the answer would be obvious — file a lawsuit seeking compensation. However, New York, like most other states, prohibits spouses from suing each other under these circumstances.
Luckily, there is an exception to that prohibition. Spouses are permitted to sue each other for compensation after a car accident if they purchased an insurance policy that explicitly allows them to do so. All insurers in New York are required to offer this insurance, and many people actually have it without knowing they do because it is included in their car insurance policy. Once a suit is initiated, it proceeds just like any other suit. The injured spouse must prove the driving spouse was totally or partially at fault in causing the accident and the resulting injuries.
Once there is an accident with another vehicle, your attorney will sue the other vehicle’s driver for negligence in causing the accident and your injuries. However, the other side, the defendant, will most likely then blame your driver for all or at least part of the accident. This means if the other driver can prove that the cause of the accident was all your driver’s fault, then you will not receive any compensation at all from the other driver. If, however, you bring a lawsuit against the other driver as well as your driver, who happens in this instance to be your spouse, then you will be compensated regardless of who was at fault.
It is also important to sue both drivers as you do not know how much insurance coverage the other driver has. So if the other driver has a limited insurance policy with, for example, only $25,000, the minimum required in New York, then regardless of your injuries, you will not recover more than the $25,000. By suing your spouse, you can also try to recover compensation from your insurance policy as well. You may also have “underinsurance” included in your policy so that if the other side’s policy is limited, you can recover additional money from your own policy.
You need an attorney who is aware of the ins and outs of car accident cases and the applicable insurance provisions to be sure that you recover the maximum amount possible for your injuries.
What also differentiates these cases from others our firm deals with is how our firm relates to both you and your spouse. Since you are technically legal adversaries, we have to make clear that we represent only the injured spouse and shape our relationship with both of you accordingly.
If you or a loved one was injured and needs legal assistance, call Jaroslawicz & Jaros at or submit an online questionnaire. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call to ensure that you do not waive your right to compensation. Or you can email us at [email protected].
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