Carpooling has been hailed as a convenient and environmentally-friendly way for employees to travel to work. Consequently, many companies across New York have been offering carpool incentive programs that connect workers who live near one another and enable them to enjoy a less-stressful commute.

Carpools, however, are like any other form of travel in that you can get into an accident driving or riding to and from the office. If that happens, are your injuries covered by workers compensation, or do you file a claim against one or more of the drivers involved?

Carpooling and workers compensation

New York’s workers compensation law states that you are eligible for benefits if the accident occurred while you were in the course of your employment. Under certain circumstances, this could include time spent carpooling. For example:

  • Were you required to use the carpooling arrangement as a condition of employment?
  • Did the company own, contract, or lease the vehicle that you rode in or drove?

If the answer to either question is yes, then your employment likely started the moment you were picked up for transportation to the office. A New York workers compensation attorney will go over when and under what circumstances the collision occurred and help you determine whether you should file for benefits.

Carpooling and personal injury claims

If you and your colleagues made an informal agreement to carpool, then you may not be eligible for benefits. If you are injured because your co-worker drove recklessly or another driver was negligent, then a New York personal injury attorney can help you identify whose insurer should pay for your damages and guide you through the process of filing a claim.

Under some circumstances, a passenger can be held liable for damages caused by a motor vehicle accident. For example, if you lifted your travel mug of hot coffee as the car went along bumpy roads and spilled some of it on the driver, then you could be found partially responsible for any ensuing accident.

Until 1975, New York was a pure contributory negligence state, meaning that if you were even 1% at fault for the accident, you could not recover damages. Today, New York Civil Practice Law and Rules 1411, which is a comparative negligence statute, states that when a plaintiff and defendant are both negligent, the court will assign a degree of fault to each party and award damages accordingly.

What does this mean? In the case of the coffee spill, if you suffered damages valued at $50,000, but the court determines that you were 40% at fault for the accident, then you might only be awarded $30,000, which covers 60% of your losses.

If you suffer injuries while carpooling in New York, then a personal injury attorney will identify whether you should file for workers compensation benefits or sue the other driver(s). They will also advise you of your rights and guide you as you pursue compensation.

Jayson Lutzky is a lawyer handling accident and personal injury cases with over 36 years of legal experience. He offers free initial consultations in his Bronx office. Call 718-329-9500 to set up an appointment.