Is New York a “No-Fault” State and What Does That Mean?

New York law uses a no-fault insurance rule to determine where injured car accident victims should look to collect compensation. Under New York’s no-fault rule, victims are limited to filing insurance claims with their own provider unless the other driver negligently caused the accident, and the victim suffered a serious injury as a result.

If the victim satisfies these criteria, they may file a lawsuit against the responsible party to recover damages sustained from the accident. This is important because lawsuit damages are often more substantial than insurance claim payouts. You only have 30 days to make an insurance claim and three years to file a personal injury lawsuit.

No matter where you are in the process, you can benefit from the advice of the experienced NYC car accident attorneys at The Carrion Law Firm. To help you get started, we can offer you a free initial case assessment when you call our offices at (718) 841-0083 today.

Is New York a No-Fault Insurance State?

Each state has its own rules about how car accident injury victims can pursue compensation for their harms. The State of New York operates under a “no-fault” insurance rule. Practically, this means that fault won’t be assigned to any particular party immediately after an accident. Therefore, injury victims will be reimbursed for their harms by their own insurer, regardless of who caused the accident. States that instead use the “at-fault” insurance rule allow injury victims to pursue their damages directly from the party responsible for causing the accident (and their insurer).

If you were not the driver in the accident, the insurance provider responsible for compensating you is the one that provided coverage for the vehicle that you were in at the time of the accident. The only situation where you would look directly to another vehicle’s insurance provider is if you were a pedestrian who was struck by that vehicle.

Pros and Cons of No-Fault Insurance Rules

No-fault insurance rules, like the ones used by the State of New York, make determining where to go for your compensation relatively straightforward. It also allows injured parties to have their claims processed quicker, since no determination of who was at fault for the accident is necessary to determine whether to accept a claim.

There are two benefits of having at-fault insurance rules in your state that you don’t get from the no-fault rules in New York. The first is that you won’t raise your own premiums by filing an insurance claim. The second is that you can move straight into a personal injury lawsuit if the other driver negligently or recklessly caused the accident and your injuries.

Personal injury lawsuits are more lucrative than insurance claims because they provide for additional forms of damages that don’t directly relate to your financial losses. While it may be more difficult, car accident injury victims can still file a lawsuit in a no-fault state like New York. But first, you will have to satisfy certain thresholds for injury severity, which will be discussed below.

“Serious Injury” Threshold for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in New York

In certain situations, you may be able to step outside the traditional New York no-fault system of submitting a claim with your own insurer and instead sue the party that was responsible for causing the accident. To meet this exception, you must be able to demonstrate that you suffered a “serious injury” as a result of the accident.

New York defines all of the following injuries as serious for the purposes of meeting the threshold to file a personal injury lawsuit:

  • Bone fractures
  • Loss of limb
  • Loss of organ
  • Loss of bodily system or function
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Permanent disability
  • Loss of brain function
  • Substantially full disability that lasts for at least three months
  • Death

If a family member or loved one lost their life in a car accident that was caused by another party’s negligence or recklessness on the road, the legal action available to you is a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death suits, as opposed to personal injury suits, compensate the beneficiaries of the deceased party for both their personal and financial losses that stem from the wrongful death.

To determine whether your injuries qualify under the statutory threshold for filing a lawsuit set out by New York law, one of our experienced New York personal injury lawyers can set you up with a medical expert who can explain the severity of your injuries within the confines of a court room.

What Compensation Is Available Through a No-Fault Insurance Claim vs. a Personal Injury Lawsuit in New York?

If you meet the statutory threshold to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver in New York, you have a decision to make. You can either pursue a traditional insurance claim through your own insurance company or file the lawsuit and look to get your damages covered by the other side (or, more likely, their insurance company). To make this decision, you should have a thorough understanding of what is available to you in either case.

Personal Injury Protection for Insurance Claims for Car Accident Injuries in New York

When you file an insurance claim for compensation to help with your car accident injuries in New York, the coverage comes from your own policy’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. At a minimum, PIP coverage in New York must provide $50,000 in coverage for the insured party and apply to the following losses:

  • Any accident-related medical bills for “reasonable and necessary” care
  • Up to $25 per day for “reasonable and necessary” expenses resulting from the accident (such as household services or transportation)
  • 80% of lost income due to missed time at work, capped at $2,000 per month for three years following the accident date

The coverage above represents the bare minimum that must be available to insured parties under New York law. Depending on your insurance policy, you may be able to claim more if your injuries warrant it.

You are not automatically entitled to this compensation just because you were in an accident. In your claim, you will have to explain the reasoning for how much you are claiming. Our Bronx car accident attorneys can help you present evidence in your insurance claim that can substantiate all of the ways that the accident and your resulting injuries have affected you financially.

Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit for a Car Accident in New York

Damages that you can obtain through a lawsuit for your car accident injuries have a substantially higher ceiling than insurance claim compensation. This is for two reasons. First, you are not constrained by your own PIP policy limits in your assessment of damages in a lawsuit. Second, you can win damages under two additional theories in a lawsuit: noneconomic damages and punitive damages.

Freedom from PIP Coverage Limits

Because you are suing the other side, your insurance policy limits will not factor into a judgement of how much you are owed. Auto insurance policies are often more extensive when it comes to covering damages from lawsuits where the insured party is at fault.

The minimum amounts of coverage required for licensed New York drivers in case they are sued for causing an accident are as follows:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
  • $10,000 for property damage per accident

Even if the amount that you are claiming in damages exceeds the other side’s available insurance coverage, that doesn’t mean you won’t get what you are owed. If your damages are more than the other side’s insurance policy allows, the remaining costs will be passed on to the at-fault driver personally. While not every driver will have sufficient funds to pay out of pocket for what you are owed, this is the more optimal path than settling for whatever your PIP coverage will allow.

Non-Economic Damages

Insurance claims with your own provider won’t include the consequences you suffer that can’t be so easily tallied on a spreadsheet. But New York law recognizes that this doesn’t make these consequences any less real or impactful for injury victims. That is why lawsuit damages will include compensation for the pain and suffering that injury victims are likely to experience as a result of the accident and their resulting injuries.

You can be compensated through a lawsuit for nontangible, personal harms such as chronic pain, inability to engage in recreational activities, damage to personal relationships, and loss of enjoyment of life, to name a few. These theories of damages are difficult to calculate without the seasoned eye of a Staten Island car accident attorney.

Punitive Damages

In certain cases, courts may decide that the driver who caused the accident acted with such recklessness that it showed an indifference to the life and health of the victim. In these cases, an award of damages might include additional compensation that is meant to punish the defendant for their behavior. Since these damages, known as punitive damages, are based on the defendant rather than the injured plaintiff, they will not be available through an insurance claim through your own provider.

How Long Do You Have to File an Insurance Claim for Car Accident Injuries in New York?

Insurance claims for car accident injuries must be filed within 30 days of the date of the accident in order to be considered. This is an incredibly short period of time, so it is important that you act quickly to report your accident to your insurer. You should not wait for any reason.

If you develop conditions subsequent to the accident that require more in compensation, you can adjust your claim to account for the additional costs of your care. If you decide later to file a lawsuit against the other party, your insurance claim will not affect your ability to succeed in your lawsuit. If you receive insurance benefits that you use to pay for your care and then win compensation for these same costs in your lawsuit, your insurance company will most likely request reimbursement from your damages, but your acceptance of insurance benefits will not reduce the amount that you can win in court.

How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit Against the At-Fault Party for Car Accident Injuries in New York?

If you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident, you are bound by New York’s statute of limitations, which is the law that dictates how long a plaintiff has to actually file their lawsuit in court. The statute of limitations for car accident injury lawsuits runs for three years from the date of the accident. If you miss the three-year deadline, you can expect the other side to file a motion to dismiss your claim, which the court will likely grant. This would effectively end your chances at getting compensation.

While three years may seem like an eternity, the time can pass faster than you might think. Personal injury lawsuits require a significant amount of preparation before they are ready to file. Your Brooklyn car accident attorneys will want to assess the accident, determine who was at fault, and calculate the damages that you should claim before filing your complaint with the court.

Lawsuits are also more successful when filed sooner because it leaves less time for evidence to dry up. You may also find it more difficult to get cooperation from eyewitnesses as time passes. If for no other reason, you should act quickly on your claim so that you get the compensation that you deserve faster. Therefore, it is in your best interest to reach out well in advance of your deadline, so that your case has the best chance of succeeding.

The Carrion Law Firm Can Answer Your Questions About New York Car Insurance Law

At The Carrion Law Firm, we know that you don’t take your car accident injury recovery lightly. Neither do we. To get your free initial case assessment today, contact our Long Island car accident lawyers at (718) 841-0083.