New York is one of many states that have enacted a no-fault insurance system for handling car accidents. The purpose of the law, in theory, is to make it easier for victims of minor collisions to secure compensation for their minor injuries.
Anyone who owns a motor vehicle in the State of New York is required to no-fault insurance coverage. An accident victim is not required to prove that another party was at fault in order to be entitled to benefits under the no-fault system. The victim’s own liability insurance coverage will provide the benefits in minor accidents without regard to fault or negligence.
A victim who is injured in a collision can, in theory, collect benefits for out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills and lost wages much faster under the no-fault system. The tradeoff under the no-fault system is that car accident victims are not entitled to pursue additional compensation under a traditional personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver unless the victim’s injuries meet the “serious injury” threshold.
Who and What Is Covered by the No-Fault System?
Compensation under the no-fault system covers expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and transportation costs for up to three years. The maximum amount payable under no-fault benefits is $50,000.
What Is Not Covered by the No-Fault System?
The New York no-fault system does not cover the cost of repairs to a damaged vehicle. Those losses must be paid for through another portion of your car insurance coverage or the other driver’s coverage.
In addition, expenses that exceed $50,000 are not covered under the no-fault system. Most importantly, pain and suffering compensation is not available through the no-fault system. The only way to collect pain and suffering damages, or compensation over the $50,000 limit, is to pursue a traditional personal injury lawsuit.
Compensation in a Traditional Car Accident Lawsuit
It is important for the victim of a New York car accident to understand that the no-fault system is not an election, meaning that you do not have the option to choose benefits under that system or pursue a personal injury lawsuit. The law specifically precludes victims from pursuing additional compensation through a lawsuit unless they can meet the “serious injury” threshold.
The term “serious injury” is defined by Section 5102 of New York’s Insurance Law as follows:
(d) “Serious injury” means a personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
Some of the terms used within the definition are less than clear, and it is difficult to precisely define what injuries pass the “serious injury” threshold. Because the law is vague, it is imperative that victims consult with an experienced New York car accident attorney as soon as possible after an accident to determine whether their injuries potentially may qualify as a serious injury.
Sometimes it is impossible to tell whether a victim has suffered a serious injury until weeks, even months, down the road. In fact, it may end up being an issue for a judge or jury to decide, which is why it is crucial to work with a lawyer from the beginning.
The Ginarte law firm has offices located in New York City, Queens, Newark, Elizabeth, Clifton, Union City and Perth Amboy.