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How Car Accident Claims Work in New York

Fight for full compensation for your accident-related expenses

When you’re in a car accident, the effects of the injury echo throughout your life. It’s not just the immediate pain and emergency medical treatment. It’s the long-term effects of a lingering injury on your health, your career, your family, and your future.

Under New York law, you have recourse, and you have the right to be made financially whole again if the accident wasn’t your fault. However, the system can be confusing for people who haven’t been through the process before, and that puts the insurance company at an immediate advantage. To win your car accident claim, you have to know what you’re dealing with.

New York is a “no-fault” state for car accidents

In New York, every driver is required to carry at least $50,000 in no-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection (PIP), which pays for medical treatment and certain out-of-pocket losses for an injury sustained in the accident.

Being in a no-fault state doesn’t mean fault doesn’t matter; it means the applicable no-fault coverage is the first place you go for compensation.

  • If you were hurt as an occupant of a vehicle (that is, a driver or a passenger), you can file a no-fault claim under the policy that covers the vehicle you were in.
  • If you were hit by a vehicle as a pedestrian or cyclist, you can file a no-fault claim under the policy that covers the vehicle that hit you.
  • If you were a pedestrian or cyclist hit by an unknown driver or uninsured vehicle, you can file a no-fault claim under your own car insurance policy (or a household family member’s policy).
  • If there is no other available insurance – say you’re a pedestrian hit by an uninsured motorist and you don’t have a car – you can file a claim with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC).

Note that if you were riding a motorcycle when the accident happened, you can’t get no-fault benefits. (Pedestrians hit by motorcycles are covered in much the same way as pedestrians hit by any other motor vehicle.) You are also barred from getting no-fault benefits if you were driving under the influence, driving in a drag race, driving in the commission of a felonious activity (such as resisting arrest), or knowingly driving a stolen car.

No-fault covers the full cost of medical services for injuries sustained in the car accident, up to the policy limit. It also covers 80 percent of your lost wages, up to $2,000 per month, if you’re unable to work due to your injuries, again up to the policy limit.

Note that no-fault only applies to your injuries. You can always file a third-party claim for property damage to your vehicle or other personal property damaged in the accident.

Can you sue the other driver in New York?

If you have a serious injury, then you can file a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In New York, a “serious injury” is any injury that meets one of the following criteria:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Any broken bone (fracture)
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Permanent loss of use of an organ, member, function, or system of the body
  • Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
  • Non-permanent injury that stops you from performing your usual daily activities for at least 90 of the 180 days following the accident

However, in order to recover, you need to prove that the other party’s negligence caused your injury. For instance, if the other driver was speeding, texting, or driving under the influence, and their reckless behavior caused an accident in which you sustained a serious injury, you can pursue compensation from their liability insurance.

The minimum liability insurance required in New York is $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 total bodily injury per accident, and $10,000 for property damage. New York motorists are also required to carry uninsured motorist protection with the same limits – this stands in for the other driver’s liability coverage if you are hurt in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, or a hit-and-run driver who cannot be found (since an unknown driver is considered uninsured by default).

Filing a third-party claim or lawsuit can provide compensation for losses not covered by your no-fault benefits, such as pain and suffering or excess wage loss.

Time is critical – as is experienced legal representation

Again, the insurance companies do this every day, and they are adept at using the system to protect their bottom line. Even in no-fault claims, they will downplay the extent of your injuries or dispute whether a particular injury is accident-related. In a third-party claim or lawsuit, they will dispute fault for the accident or pressure you to accept a settlement that may be much less than the full value of your injuries. Remember, once you’ve accepted the insurance company’s money, that’s it. Your claim is done, and you can’t go back for more.

There is also a legal deadline, called the statute of limitations, that will bar you from filing a lawsuit if you wait too long. In New York, the statute of limitations is three years for most motor vehicle accidents, but shorter deadlines may apply in some circumstances (for instance, if your accident involved a government employee or government-owned vehicle).

In addition, time can weaken your case in practical ways. Physical evidence can be washed away by weather. Camera footage is erased or overwritten, sometimes within days. Witnesses forget what they saw. You may have three years to file a claim, but gathering the evidence to actually win that claim needs to be done much sooner.

This is why you need to talk to an experienced car accident lawyer about your legal options as soon as possible. An attorney can review the evidence, the circumstances of your crash, and the available insurance to determine your best path forward. If you’ve been injured in a car accident in New York, speak with an attorney in your area today.

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Pasternack, Tilker, Ziegler, Walsh, Stanton & Romano LLP
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Keogh Crispi, P.C.
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Keogh Crispi, P.C. is known for getting injured New Yorkers big results with careful preparation and aggressive advocacy. Founding attorney Pat James Crispi has recovered millions...