Motorist Rights Under New York’s No-Fault Law
Nobody expects to get hurt in a motor vehicle collision in New York, but car accidents are quite common throughout the boroughs. In 2014, the last year for which the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles maintains comprehensive statistics, there were a total of 299,452 accidents in the state. In those collisions, a total of 160,497 people suffered non-fatal injuries while 1,026 people were killed. While crashes can range widely in terms of severity, many motorists who are involved in collisions will want to seek compensation for their losses. For most New Yorkers, the process of seeking compensation begins with an auto insurance claim. Yet it can be difficult to understand how New York’s no-fault car insurance works, and what rights a motorist has under the law.
What is No-Fault Insurance in New York?
Before you can understand your rights under New York’s auto insurance law, it is important to have a basic understanding of no-fault insurance law in the state. As in all other states, drivers in New York must have a minimum amount of auto insurance in order to operate a registered vehicle in the state. Yet New York is different from many other places in that it is one of only a dozen states in the U.S. that has a no-fault auto insurance system. In a no-fault system, motorists are required to have personal injury protection coverage (also known as “PIP coverage”) or medical benefits coverage. This type of coverage pays for costs associated with your own medical care, even if the other driver was at fault.
Most no-fault auto insurance systems operate like this: Rather than having the option of filing a first-party claim through your own insurance company or a third-party claim through the responsible driver’s insurance company to obtain compensation for your injuries, you must file a claim through your own insurance company. In other words, most insurance claims in a no-fault state like New York are first-party claims, and PIP or medical benefits coverage provides the insured with compensation. In this kind of first-party claim, you cannot obtain benefits for non-economic losses like pain and suffering.
You can Still Hold the Negligent Driver Accountable
Despite the fact that many no-fault auto injury claims are first-party claims, it is important to be clear that a no-fault system does not mean that you cannot hold the other driver accountable. When you are seeking compensation for damage to your vehicle, or you have been seriously injured, you may be able to file a third-party insurance claim or a lawsuit against the negligent driver. If you are filing a vehicle damage claim, you do not have to go through your own insurance company; you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer through a third-party claim.
When it comes to an injury claim, in order to file a third-party claim or a lawsuit against the driver, a motorist must be able to show that she or he has suffered a “serious injury.” This is often known as the “serious injury threshold.” To meet the serious injury threshold, a motorist must be able to prove one of the following under New York Insurance Law § 5104(a-b):
● Significant disfigurement;
● Loss of fetus;
● Permanent loss of use of a body organ, function, or system;
● Permanent and consequential limitation of a body organ;
● Significant limitation of a body function or system; or
● Non-permanent injury that prevents a person from performing activities of daily living for at least 90 days.
Contact a New York Car Accident Lawyer
If you were involved in an auto accident in New York and have questions about your rights under the no-fault system, it is essential to work with an aggressive New York car accident attorney on your case. An advocate at Leitner Varughese, PLLC can speak with you today about filing a motor vehicle crash claim. Contact us today for more information.