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Does New York’s No-Fault Law Mean I Cannot File a Car Accident Lawsuit?


Anyone who has been injured in a motor vehicle collision in New York should be thinking about how to seek financial compensation for their losses, especially if another driver is at fault for the crash. Yet many injury victims speak with friends or family members about their options, or run quick searches on the internet, only to discover that New York is what is known as a “no-fault” state when it comes to auto insurance and car crash claims. But are accident victims truly prevented from filing car accident lawsuits in “no-fault” states like New York? In short, the answer is no.

Simply because New York is a “no-fault” state does not mean that everyone is ineligible to file a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver. However, car accident lawsuits are more limited, and you will need to go through the process of filing an auto insurance claim through your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage first. Our experienced New York auto accident lawyers can explain how the “no-fault” system might affect your case.

You Must File a Claim Through Your Own Auto Insurer First

The first step in the “no-fault” system in New York is for any person injured in the collision to file a PIP claim through their own auto insurance policy. Regardless of who may be at fault for the crash, New York law says that a person who is injured should obtain compensation by filing a claim through their own policy. In fault-based or “tort” states—different from New York—injury victims in car crashes typically have the option of filing an auto insurance claim either through their own policy (known as a first-party claim) or through the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company (known as a third-party claim). This is not an option in New York.

Rather than being able to choose between a first-party and a third-party claim, New York motorists who are injured in a collision must file a claim first with their own auto insurer. Then, if the compensation is insufficient to cover all losses, that injured party may be eligible to file a lawsuit if other requirements are met.

Injury Must be “Serious” to File a Lawsuit

While it is a common misconception to believe that you cannot file a lawsuit against an at-fault driver in a “no-fault” state, it is important to know that New York law requires anyone filing a lawsuit against the liable driver to be able to prove that they have met a “serious injury” threshold. In other words, you can only file a claim if your injury is considered to be “serious” according to New York law.

What makes an injury sufficiently serious to file a lawsuit? The law says that the following is a definition of a “serious” injury for which an injury victim can sue the at-fault party:

“[It] results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent 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.”

Contact Our New York Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyers

Do you have questions about filing a lawsuit and suing the at-fault driver after a collision? Our New York car crash lawyers can help. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC today.


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