New York has a comprehensive system for compensating victims of motor vehicle accidents. If you are involved in an accident, it is important to be aware that you are covered for both medical treatment and lost wages. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may also be entitled to seek further compensation by filing a lawsuit. This multi-part series will focus on the essentials of both.

The person injured in an auto accident is entitled to:

  • Compensation for medical costs and lost income due to injuries from the accident
  • A lawsuit against the at-fault driver, in cases where the injured person is deemed to have a “serious injury”

These two components fit together.

No-Fault Basics

New York is a “no-fault” state, meaning that it uses a no-fault auto insurance system. This type of insurance coverage is also known as Personal Injury Protection or “PIP.”

No-fault is fundamental to personal injury cases related to motor vehicle accidents in New York. It means that anyone who is injured in a motor vehicle accident – regardless of fault – is automatically entitled to benefits to cover the costs of medical care as well as lost income. Even if the injured person caused the accident, they are still covered.

Coverage for medical expenses includes ambulance, emergency room, hospital admissions, surgery, and physical therapy/rehabilitation.

The injured person is also compensated for lost income, within certain limits, for example $2,000 a month. This amount is based on the combined limit for medical costs and lost income, which is typically $50,000. Some policyholders have a higher level of coverage, raising the limit to $75,000 or $100,000. No-fault does not cover damage to your vehicle.

No-fault will be discussed in further detail in the next installment of this series.

The Lawsuit Option

No-fault is designed to prevent lawsuits, since it covers most accident-related expenses. However it does not prohibit them. The law allows the injured person to sue the at-fault driver if he or she has sustained a “serious injury.”

The injured person cannot go to court for a “non-serious injury.” For example, a sprain or strain would not qualify as a “serious injury.” On the face of things, these terms are relative. The law attempts to clearly delineate what constitutes a “serious injury,” but this nuanced issue continues to be hotly contested in the courts. It will be discussed in the final installment of this series.

Please note: These articles are intended only for general information. If you have specific questions, please call us at (212) 962-2626 for a free consultation.