New York Car Accident Fault Laws
For many car accident victims in New York, the question of who is at fault never has to be answered, thanks to the no-fault system in New York. With this insurance structure, you will turn first to your own car insurance policy to get compensation for your medical bills and other financial losses, regardless of who was at fault. This can really simplify the process and make it so that you only have to deal with your own car insurance company.
However, if you’ve suffered a serious injury, your insurance alone may be insufficient to cover all your losses. There are certain situations where you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit. Cantor, Wolff, Nicastro & Hall is here to help you explore your legal options for recovery and to guide you through the claims process. Below, our knowledgeable attorneys discuss car accident fault laws in NY.
If you have any questions about your accident or how we can help, call us at (716) 995-4318 or contact us online.
What is No-Fault Insurance in New York?
No-fault car insurance covers the medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages caused in car accidents for those insured, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Therefore, if you get in a car accident in New York, you will usually file a claim under your own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. For many claimants, this will be the exclusive legal remedy because of the no-fault car accident NY law.
New York State law requires all registered vehicle owners in the state to carry PIP coverage of at least $50,000. Owners may purchase additional insurance if they want. PIP insurance covers the owner of the policy, as well as all members of their household. It also covers any passengers in the vehicle who are injured if they are not covered by another auto insurance policy in New York State.
Liability insurance, which covers the costs of injuries that an insured driver causes to others, may apply in some situations. New York state law requires all vehicle owners to maintain liability insurance on their vehicles in the following minimum amounts:
- $25,000 for bodily injury to one person
- $50,000 for bodily injury to more than one person per accident
- $10,000 in property damage in one accident.
Benefits of No-Fault PIP Protection and Requirements in NY
PIP insurance is designed to promptly pay for expenses directly related to the car accident. You typically only have 30 days from the date of the collision to file an application for the following benefits:
- Medical expenses – These expenses must be reasonable and necessary. They may include expenses for treatment, diagnosis, or rehabilitation. Their reasonableness is based on established fee schedules.
- Lost wages – Your PIP car insurance coverage provides up to 80 percent of lost earnings from work, subject to a monthly maximum. You can receive payment for your lost wages for up to three years from the date of the accident, subject to certain offsets established by law and your insurance policy limits.
- Other reasonable and necessary expenses – PIP insurance also covers other reasonable and necessary expenses stemming from your accident, such as household help or transportation to your medical appointments. These benefits are limited to $25/day for up to one year following the accident.
- Death benefits – PIP insurance provides a $2,000 death benefit to the estate of a person who is killed in a motor vehicle accident.
If you have basic no-fault insurance, your PIP insurance will pay up to $50,000 per person who was injured in the accident, according to the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Your PIP insurance is primary to health insurance, so if you’re injured in an accident, your PIP insurance will pay first before your health insurance kicks in.
No-fault insurance does not pay for any auto body repair or personal property damage, either for your own vehicle or the other vehicle involved in the accident.
New York’s No-Fault Insurance Rules for Car Accident Cases
One of the first questions that may pop up after an accident is, “Is NY a no-fault car accident state?” While New York is a no-fault insurance state, there are some situations in which you can step out of the restrictions of no-fault insurance and make a claim against the at-fault party.
If you make an insurance claim or file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, you will have to show that they were responsible for the accident.
However, if you can make this showing, you may be able to recover compensation for the full extent of your damages, including:
- Costs to repair or replace your vehicle
- The full value of your lost wages and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Lost earning capacity
You may be able to step outside the no-fault system if you suffered any of the following serious injuries in the car accident:
- A broken or fractured bone
- Substantial disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of the use of a body organ or limb
- A substantial limitation of a body function or system
- Substantially full disability for 90 days
There are a few other limited situations in which no-fault laws might not apply, such as if the vehicle you or the other driver was operating was a motorcycle or scooter. Also, if an out-of-state driver caused the accident, you may have the right to sue.
Comparative Fault in NY Car Accidents
Another important concept to understand about New York fault laws is a comparative fault. Comparative fault apportions fault to all of the parties whose negligence contributed to an accident. Under New York’s comparative fault law, you can still file a claim against another driver, even if you were partially at fault for the accident.
New York is considered a “pure comparative fault” state, which means that you can still file a claim against a negligent party no matter how much at fault you were.
Rules on Shared Fault in New York
Under New York’s fault laws, you can still pursue a claim against another party even if you were partially responsible for the accident. However, the amount of money you can recover will be reduced by your portion of fault.
For example, if you suffered damages of $100,000 and were 80 percent at fault, your damages would be reduced by $80,000. However, you could still pursue the remaining $20,000 in damages you suffered from the at-fault party or parties.
The jury first determines the amount of damages you sustained. Then, they assign a certain degree of fault to you and the other parties involved in the accident. Your damages are then reduced according to the percentage of your own negligence.
Juries determine your damages by considering this legal principle. Insurance companies may also try to apply this principle as well to reduce the perceived value of your claim. A personal injury lawyer at Cantor, Wolff, Nicastro & Hall can evaluate the circumstances surrounding your accident and whether shared fault rules may affect your claim. Your lawyer will argue for the maximum compensation available, based on the particular facts involved in your case.
If two or more parties contributed to your accident, there are also special rules that may apply. When you sue multiple defendants and receive a judgment against them, a concept called “joint and several liabilities” may apply.
This legal concept means that you can hold all at-fault parties collectively or individually responsible for the full amount of damages you sustain. This gives you the flexibility of seeking the full amount of damages against a single defendant. This can be useful if you might have difficulty collecting money from another defendant, due to lack of insurance, limited resources, or a recent bankruptcy filing.
How Can a New York Car Accident Lawyer Help Me?
If you were injured in a car accident in New York, a lawyer can help by:
- Explaining the fault laws and no-fault laws in New York
- Reviewing the particular provisions of your car insurance policy
- Advising you of your legal rights at every stage of your case
- Investigating the cause of your accident and all potentially liable parties
- Gathering evidence to establish liability and the extent of your damages
- Handling communications with the insurance company on your behalf
- Mitigating the impact of your own negligence on your claim
- Negotiating for a fair and just settlement
- Recommending whether to accept a no-fault car accident settlement in New York or file a lawsuit
The aftermath of a car accident can be challenging, especially when you’re not sure how the insurance process works. An experienced attorney at Cantor, Wolff, Nicastro & Hall can handle the complex legal issues involved in your case while you focus on your recovery.
At Cantor, Wolff, Nicastro & Hall, we only handle personal injury cases. Our personal injury attorneys have extensive experience representing accident victims throughout Buffalo, NY and surrounding areas. We provide a free consultation to learn more about your accident and determine whether you have a viable injury claim. Contact us online or give us a call at (716) 995-4318 for a free evaluation of your case and to get started on the recovery process.