In New York and all other jurisdictions, the occurrence of a one-car accident does not rule out that there may be a claim for personal injury or death damages. If the operator of the vehicle in a single-vehicle car accident was negligent, and if there was a passenger who suffered serious personal injury or death, the operator may be liable for damages to the passenger or his/her estate. The negligence of the driver is not passed on to the passenger, and therefore the passenger will almost always be entitled to collect for damages incurred.
In a recent one-car accident, a 22-year-old man died when the vehicle he was riding in left the roadway, struck a utility pole and a house, finally coming to a rest on its roof. The victim had been ejected from the vehicle. The operator was a 21-year-old male of Saugerties, who had been traveling south when his vehicle went off the roadway and into the foregoing series of fatal gyrations, leading to the victim’s death.
The driver was treated for minor injuries and released. The decedent was apparently declared dead at the scene. There is no report of whether the driver was impaired or whether the police examined or tested him for alcohol or drugs.
However, Saugerties Police are continuing a formal investigation, with the assistance of the New York State Police Accident Reconstruction Team, Forensic Investigation Unit. Various forensic tests will be or have been taken to determine the speed of the vehicle and the trajectory and impact of the decedent’s body. It is usually the case that a car accident under these or similar facts is the result of negligence by the operator. If that is proved to be the case, the decedent’s estate will have a wrongful death civil claim for damages against the driver. In such cases, the existence of criminal responsibility is generally irrelevant because the test in this civil action is simply a test for carelessness under the circumstances.
Source: hudsonvalleyone.com, “Saugerties man, 22, dies in one-car crash“, Jan. 31, 2017