Car Accident Lawsuits & New York’s Auto Insurance Law

The number one cause of all injury related deaths in the Bronx is car accidents. But insurance companies don’t make it any easier, and dealing with them can be confusing and unfair. Make your first call to the straight-forward lawyers at the Lipsig Law Firm.

  • Bronx-based, locally-minded law firm
  • 80 years of combined experience recovering compensation for car accident victims
  • $500 million recovered for personal injury and auto accident injuries
Free Auto Injury Case Evaluation 347-475-1041

Research shows that traffic accidents are the leading cause of emergency room visits every year, both in the Bronx community and nationwide. While car crashes can be caused by a wide range of factors, some of which are out of our control, the research is also clear on another significant point. Most accidents involve at least some level of human error, if not outright driver negligence. However, New York’s strict auto insurance laws can make it difficult for some accident victims to secure financial compensation in personal injury lawsuits.

If you or a loved one were injured in a Bronx car accident, our guide to New York’s auto laws will help you understand your legal rights and options.

Filing A Car Accident Lawsuit In The Bronx

In most states, people who are injured in car crashes will find it relatively easy to pursue a civil lawsuit over the accident. Although their chances of winning a lawsuit will depend entirely on the facts of their case, victims who live in “tort” auto insurance states, like Georgia or California, will at least have an automatic right to file suit over accident injuries.

These states take “fault” for the accident into account. Likewise, insurance companies will attempt to determine who was responsible for the accident and pay out insurance benefits based on that determination. New York, one of only 12 states (along with Puerto Rico) to have established a “no-fault” insurance system, is different.

New York’s “No-Fault” Auto Insurance Law

Rather than turn to the responsible driver’s insurance company for financial support, New York drivers who are injured in car accidents are required to pursue compensation from their own insurer first. Fault, or liability, isn’t taken into account, at least not from the perspective of people who were actually involved in the accident. Instead, your insurance company will cover medical expenses directly caused by the accident, along with wages you lose out on during recovery.

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New York No Fault Insurance Infographic

The money comes from your own Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, insurance policy.  Every New York driver is required to carry a minimum of $50,000 in PIP insurance, which can also cover injuries sustained by passengers in the car, along with pedestrians and cyclists who are hit by the vehicle.

This is true no matter where your accident takes place. Injured in Alabama? New York’s no-fault insurance laws still apply, as they would if you were hurt in a US territory, like Guam, or even Canada. PIP is attached to your vehicle and its registration, not you personally or the state in which you were driving at the time of the accident.

Restricted Right To Sue

In exchange for guaranteed compensation, New York’s no-fault insurance law severely restricts your right to file a lawsuit over the accident. The system was designed to keep insurance costs down, while allowing injured people to get benefits as quickly as possible. But PIP policies only cover a fraction of the damages that victims actually suffer in car accidents.

New York Personal Injury Protection Infographic

While your immediate medical expenses and lost earnings are usually reimbursed, there’s no provision that will compensate drivers or passengers for the physical pain and suffering they experienced. Nor is there any money to reimburse injury victims for their ongoing emotional trauma. These are very real damages, but ones that, like fault or negligence, New York’s no-fault insurance system was designed to ignore.

The possibility of pursuing a wider range of financial damages is only open to certain injury victims, people who meet the State’s “serious injury” threshold. When you file a car accident lawsuit in the Bronx, the Court will first determine whether your injuries meet a legal definition for severity. If you don’t meet the threshold, it’s likely that your case will be dismissed.

Who Can File A Car Accident Lawsuit?

New York’s auto insurance law outlines 9 distinct categories of “serious injury”:

  1. Death
  2. Dismemberment
  3. Significant disfigurement
  4. Fracture
  5. Loss of fetus
  6. Permanent loss of use of body organ, member, function or body system
  7. Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member
  8. Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
  9. Medically-determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the accident

To successfully pursue a car crash lawsuit in the Bronx, the injuries suffered by an accident victim must fall under one of these 9 categories.

As you can see, some of these definitions are indisputable, namely death, dismemberment (loss of limb), fracture (broken bone) and loss of fetus. Few defense attorneys would be able to convincingly argue that someone did not die in a car accident when, in fact, they died in a car accident. Other categories are up for debate, arguments that often become heated in mediation sessions or a courtroom. How, for example, can we demonstrate that a disfigurement is “significant”? Who decides what “significant” means in this context? Ultimately, these are questions that a court will answer, after taking medical records, expert medical testimony and legal arguments into account.

Motorcyclists, Bicyclists & Pedestrians

New York’s auto insurance laws apply to drivers, motor vehicle passengers, bicyclists and pedestriants. Motorcyclists, on the other hand, are allowed to sue the responsible party “from first dollar loss,” the New York Department of Financial Services reports. In short, motorcyclists have every right to sue a negligent driver over their injuries, whether or not those injuries meet the State’s “serious injury” threshold.

No Fault Insurance In New York Graphic

Injured bicyclists and pedestrians, however, are covered by the Personal Injury Protection policies purchased by drivers. Thus the same rules that apply to injured drivers also apply to cyclists and pedestrians, who will be able to have their immediate medical expenses and lost wages compensated by the driver’s insurance company, regardless of fault. When a cyclist or pedestrian wants to file a lawsuit, they will have to meet the State’s “serious injury” threshold.

Common Causes Of Car Crashes

Protecting ourselves from injury is paramount, but no driver or passenger can rely solely on their own decision-making to ensure safety. You can be an incredibly safe, responsible driver with a spotless driving record. When you share the road with so many unpredictable drivers, accidents can still happen, leading to severe personal injuries in the blink of an eye.

New York’s no-fault insurance system pushes responsibility for the accident out of view, but car accident lawsuits don’t. Beyond showing that their injuries are sufficiently “serious,” plaintiffs will have to prove that the defendant in their lawsuit was negligent in operating a motor vehicle.

Car Accident Causes Infographic

The legal theory of negligence holds drivers to a reasonable standard of care. Everyone on the road is required to take reasonable steps to prevent accidents, after all, we have driving laws for a reason. Numerous behaviors can become a serious safety liability behind the wheel:

  • Speeding
  • Failing to yield
  • Distracted driving (texting, talking on the phone, etc.)
  • Tailgating
  • Passing or lane shifting violations
  • Ignoring specified traffic signs and signals
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

These behaviors can also open drivers up to legal liability. When a driver violates their duty to protect the safety of others, failing to operate their vehicle with sufficient care, they can be held accountable for their negligence in a lawsuit.

Strict Time Limits May Apply

Like every other state, New York has established harsh time limits that can restrict the amount of time injured victims have to file a car accident lawsuit. This law is known as a “statute of limitations,” and it gives victims only three years to file suit, beginning on the date of their accident.

The statute of limitations is strictly enforced. Choose to pursue a lawsuit after the time limit has run out and your case will likely be dismissed.

Car Accidents In New York: The Statistics

According to New York’s Department of Health, from 2005-2007 there were an average of 1,430 deaths, 15,251 hospitalizations, and 143,611 emergency room visits each year, all caused by motor vehicle and traffic-related injuries. This means that out of every 100,000 residents, the emergency room treated almost 760 people yearly.

Motorcycle Accidents

4,092 emergency room visits
for New York residents annually.

Traffic / Pedestrian Injuries

12,104 emergency room visits
for New York residents annually.

Traffic / Bicyclist Injuries

3,209 emergency room visits
for New York residents annually.

Unspecified Traffic Injuries

7,775 emergency room visits
for New York residents annually.

The streets of New York City can be especially dangerous, as Department of Motor Vehicles data clearly shows. Statewide, only around 40% of car accidents result in injuries, whether the person injured is a driver, motorcyclist, passenger or pedestrian. Crashes in the City, on the other hand, will lead to personal injuries in about of 7 out of 10 cases.

What Should I Do If I Have Been In An Accident?

The immediate aftermath of an accident can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you have been injured and are in pain. There are certain steps that you should immediately follow in order to protect yourself.

  1. Call the police immediately.
  2. Gather information from everyone involved (including bystanders and passengers): complete names, addresses, and phone numbers, details on the make and model of the cars involved as well as their license plate numbers and names on registration paperwork, and the insurance status of each driver involved.
  3. Write down every detail you can remember about the accident as soon as you possibly can. The more details that you can note, the better.
  4. Document all damage with photos if you have a camera or phone camera available to you. This includes damage done to the surrounding environment as well as the vehicles.
  5. Seek a medical evaluation, even if you feel that you were not injured. This is very important, because at times, injuries sustained are not felt until later when you have relaxed, or may appear several days after the impact.
  6. Get legal assistance. We can answer your questions and evaluate your case for free before you say anything to an insurance company which could later prevent you from getting the compensation you deserve.

Even in cases where the injuries you have sustained do not significantly impair you, it is always best to discuss things with a personal injury attorney.

How Do I File A Lawsuit?

If you are interested in filing a lawsuit and want to explore your options, reach out to our experienced car accident attorneys as soon as possible. Contact the attorneys at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman to secure a free legal consultation now.

One of our qualified attorneys will be able to outline the best ways to proceed. If we can help, our lawyers work on a contingency-fee basis, which means that you owe us nothing until we secure compensation in your case.