Though a car accident can be a stressful and overwhelming event, you may take some comfort in the fact that insurance — either your own or the at-fault party’s — will cover the cost of your medical expenses, repairs, and other damages. However, that reassurance can quickly disappear once you learn that the at-fault party does not have auto insurance. If this is the case, you may wonder, what are your options for recovery?
The good news is that, so long as you meet New York’s minimum car insurance requirements, you should not have to worry too much about where your remuneration will come from. This is because New York is a no-fault car insurance state, which means that your own auto insurance should pay for any expenses that you or your passengers incur as a result of accident-related injuries, regardless of who was at fault.
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New York’s Minimum Car Insurance Requirements
New York’s minimum coverage requirements are comprehensive. The state maintains strict coverage requirements to ensure that injured parties can recuperate the compensation they need to enjoy a quick and comfortable recovery. Individuals must satisfy the minimum insurance requirements in order to register their vehicles and obtain license plates. The minimum requirements are as follows:
- No-Fault: No-fault coverage, otherwise known as “Personal Injury Protection,” helps car accident victims pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and other reasonable expenses that they incur during an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage: UM insurance helps injured parties pay for expenses that exceed their no-fault policy limits and that arise from accidents involving hit-and-run drivers or uninsured motorists.
- Liability Insurance: Liability coverage protects insureds against liability for any harm they cause to other persons or property.
Below is a more extensive overview of each type of coverage, New York’s minimum requirements for each, and how each can help you in an uninsured motorist accident.
Personal Injury Protection
The purpose of PIP coverage is to ensure injured parties can receive prompt payment for all economic losses they incur because of an accident. Economic losses include medical costs, lost wages, and other reasonably necessary expenses related to injuries. New York’s no-fault system saves accident victims and the court system millions of dollars each year in costs that would otherwise go toward lengthy and costly negotiations and litigation.
The basic no-fault coverage plan in New York pays out up to $50,000 per person, per accident. Each policy covers the driver of a vehicle, all passengers in the policyholder’s vehicle, and any pedestrians injured by the policyholder’s vehicle.
In addition to paying for medical expenses, PIP will also insure the policyholder and any relatives who reside in his or her home against economic losses that may stem from accident-related injuries. It does this by providing the following benefits:
- 80% of income replacement, with a maximum monthly payment of $2,000, for three years from the date of the accident
- Up to $25 a day for the reimbursement of practical and necessary services, such as transportation, rehabilitation, and household help
- $2,000 in death benefits
No-fault coverage is primary to health insurance, which means it will kick in before your healthcare policy does. PIP does not cover the cost of repairs to your vehicle or to your or the other party’s personal property.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
The purpose of uninsured motorist coverage is, essentially, to help pay for medical expenses that exceed your PIP limits. Uninsured motorist (UM) insurance covers you, any occupants of your vehicle at the time of the accident, and all relatives who reside in your home, in the event that you or they sustain injuries due to the negligence of a hit-and-run or uninsured driver. You may also file a claim under this coverage if you or a member of your household unwittingly drive or occupy an uninsured vehicle, or if you sustain injuries as a pedestrian in a hit-and-run or uninsured motorist accident.
Liability insurance protects you, or anyone who was driving your vehicle, against a third-party claim for damages. If the driver or occupants of the other vehicle file a claim alleging that your negligence or carelessness caused the accident, this coverage will make payments on your behalf if the claim is successful. It will also make payments on your behalf if the other party’s damages are extensive or if your accident resulted in another person’s death. Moreover, your insurer must provide you with legal representation to defend yourself against these claims without reducing your policy’s liability limits. The minimum coverage amounts for liability coverage as mandated by state law are as follows:
- $25,000 for bodily injury that does not result in death, or $50,000 for bodily injury that does result in death, for one person in a single accident
- $50,000 for bodily injury that does not result in death, or $100,000 for bodily injury that does result in death, for two or more persons per accident
- $10,000 in property damage per accident
Just as a third party can file a claim against your liability policy for extensive damages, so too can you file a claim against an at-fault party’s policy. However, when an uninsured driver denies you of this option, you may wonder what options you have if you sustain extensive damages in an accident or, in the worst-case scenario, when a loved one dies due to accident-related injuries.
Filing a Lawsuit Against an At-Fault but Uninsured Driver
New York devised its no-fault system as it did to help accident victims cover most accident scenarios, including those involving uninsured drivers. To account for situations in which no-fault, UM, or liability insurance cannot help, the state does allow injured persons or bereaved loved ones to pursue third-party claims for damages, but only in very few instances.
The only situation in which state law may allow you to file a third-party lawsuit for damages is if you or an occupant of your vehicle sustained a “serious injury.” A serious injury, per New York Insurance Law § 5102(d), is one that results in significant disfigurement; dismemberment; a fracture or break; the enduring loss of usage of a body part, system, organ or function; the significant limitation of a bodily system or function; the loss of a fetus; the permanent substantial limitation of the use of a body part or organ; or death.
The state may also consider an injury “serious” if it meets the 90/180 rule. If, during the 180 days following your accident, an injury prohibits you from engaging in your usual and customary everyday undertakings for not less than 90 days, it may constitute as “serious.”
Only if your injury is serious, and only if you exhaust the coverage on your no-fault insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, and liability insurance, may you file a third-party lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Beware Before You File
Unfortunately, there is typically a reason that people fail to carry insurance, and that is because they cannot afford it. Even if you do secure a judgment against an at-fault party, there is a strong likelihood that he or she will not be able to afford to pay it. Though you have the option to go after the defendant’s assets, doing so can be a costly and lengthy process, and there is little guarantee that he or she will have enough to cover the cost of your damages or your mounting legal fees.
When To Consult With a New York Accident Lawyer
Finding out that the at-fault driver of your car accident does not have insurance can make an already overwhelming situation even more so. However, assuming you have the proper insurance, you have plenty of opportunities for monetary recovery. To take full advantage of them, and to maximize the amount of compensation you stand to receive, connect with the experienced New York car accident attorneys at Cellino Law as soon after your accident as possible.
New York State Department of Financial Services: https://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumers/auto_insurance/minimum_auto_insurance_requirements
The New York State Senate: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/ISC/5102