If you have been injured in an automobile accident in New York, you may be entitled to a monetary recovery. It is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible after being involved in a motor vehicle accident so that you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities. Only an attorney who is experienced in prosecuting personal injury matters can ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to.
There are many different components that make up a motor vehicle accident claim in New York State: No Fault Benefits, Property Damage, Liability, Bodily Injury Damage and Uninsured Motorist Claims. Each specific component requires a complete understanding of the rules, regulations and procedures involved in pursuing such a claim.
No Fault Benefits
New York State is a “No Fault” state. This means that everyone injured in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of fault, is entitled to receive No Fault Benefits. No Fault Benefits are considered to be “basic economic loss” and include such things as the cost of medical treatment, lost wages and “other reasonable and necessary expenses related to the accident,” which include the cost of prescription drugs and transportation expenses to and from doctors appointments. No Fault Benefits are paid by the insurance carrier on the vehicle you are operating or are a passenger in. In the case of pedestrians and bicyclists, No Fault Benefits are paid by the vehicle that hits you. No Fault Benefits are not available in New York State to operators of motorcycles but are available to passengers of motorcycles. Motorcycle operators, however, can purchase “medical payment coverage.” It is important to review your No Fault Insurance coverage with your insurance broker or agent to make sure that your coverage is sufficient to fully protect you in the event your are involved in an accident and are hospitalized or unable to return to work for an extended period of time. The minimum No Fault coverage in New York State is fifty thousand dollars ($50,000.00). This sounds like a lot of money to most people but a few day stay in a hospital can easily exhaust a minimum No Fault policy. It is possible to purchase additional No Fault coverage to fully protect you in the event you are injured in an accident. It is important to discuss your specific needs with your insurance professional. Remember, after an accident has happened is too late to make changes to your insurance coverage as any changes will not be applied retroactively.
Liability is the determination of who is “negligent”, “at fault” or “liable” for the an accident occurrence. Liability must be determined in order to be compensated for both Property damage claims as well as Bodily Injury claims. Sometimes, liability is easily ascertainable. If you are stopped at a red light and your vehicle is rear ended by another driver, it is clear under the law that the other driver was “at fault” or “liable” for the happening of the accident. Sometimes, determining who is at fault is not that clear. New York State is a “comparative negligence” state. That means that fault can be apportioned between drivers. Other states do not allow this. In New York State, a driver can be found to be 99% responsible for causing an accident and still recover for his or her damages. The value of the damages is reduced by the amount of fault that a jury finds the driver is responsible for. Liability must be determined at least 1% in your favor for you to be compensated.
Damages are the amount that is compensated for a particular injury to person or property. Property damage is the amount of “injury” to your vehicle. It is usually determined by the cost of the repair; however, it can be the value of the vehicle if it is deemed a “total loss.”
Damages are also the value of the bodily injury. It sounds somewhat morbid, but every injury has a “value” or a range of anticipated recovery. This range is based upon what jurors in cases with similar injuries and similar fact patterns have awarded for the specific injury. There are many components that go into a determination of damages. Things like how long an individual went for medical treatment, what that treatment consisted of, how much pain and suffering a person experienced, how much time a person was incapacitated from employment and other activities of daily living.
Every motor vehicle accident case is different. While prior recoveries in similar cases can be a guide to a range of anticipated recovery in another case, each case has its own unique circumstances which affect the amount of damages that will be recovered in that case. Not all injuries that arise from motor vehicle accidents in New York State will result in a monetary recovery. New York State has a very strict standard, referred to as the “serious injury threshold,” which prevents certain injury claims from being compensated. Injury claims found not to meet the statutory definition of “serious” can be dismissed without ever being compensated. It is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney whenever you are involved in a motor vehicle accident to help explain the “serious injury threshold” to you as well as maximize any potential recovery for your injuries.
Uninsured Motorist Claims
What happens if you are involved in an accident with someone who does not have motor vehicle insurance? Will you still be compensated for your injuries? The answer is “it depends”. Every motor vehicle insurance policy written in New York State carries minimal Uninsured Motorist protection. This portion of the policy protects drivers and passengers of motor vehicles in the event they are injured by an uninsured motor vehicle. There are, however, certain requirements that need to be met in order to be compensated under this protection. The “serious injury threshold” also applies to these claims
What happens if you are a pedestrian or bicyclist struck by an uninsured motor vehicle, can you still be compensated? Again, “it depends.” If you, or a household member, own a motor vehicle, you can submit a claim against the household vehicles’ Uninsured Motorist protection.
What if no one in your household owns a motor vehicle? Then you can submit a claim to the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation. This agency has been set up to protect individuals that are involved in motor vehicle accidents with uninsured motor vehicles and there is no household insurance.