New York is among a handful of no-fault insurance states in the country. In “fender-bender” collisions that involve limited personal injury and property damage, victims may file claims against their own insurance companies for economic losses, including property damage, lost wages, and medical bills.
This system is designed to expedite these claims, keep them out of the court system and help ensure their settlement on consumer-friendly terms. Whether or not New York’s version of the no-fault law accomplishes these goals is largely a matter of opinion.
Under Article 51 of the New York Insurance Law, car crash victims on Long Island are often entitled to additional compensation for their noneconomic damages. This category includes intangible losses like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium (companionship and contribution to household affairs).
A serious injury is defined as:
- Death: There is a separate wrongful death statute that applies in these cases, whether the victim died immediately after the incident or decades later.
- Significant Disfigurement: Any scar on any visible part of the body is typically considered serious disfigurement. Juries usually award more damages to women in these cases.
- Fracture: This injury is one of the more common “serious” injuries. Car crash-related fractures nearly always involve metal pins, screws, or plates and require months of painful and expensive physical therapy.
- Permanent Loss: Any amputation or loss of an internal body organ has life-altering consequences for both the victims and their loved ones.
- Permanent Limitation: The amount of damages often depends on the amount of limitation and the location of the injury.
- 90/180 Rule: This is another common serious injury, and it includes any injury “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 ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.” (Insurance Law, § 671, subd 4.) The 90 days do not have to be consecutive, because many recovering victims have good days and bad days.
Some types of accidents, such as motorcycle crashes, are automatically exempt from the no-fault law.
Consumers may purchase additional insurance that protects them if they are in a crash with a tortfeasor (negligent driver) who has inadequate financial responsibility. At first blush, additional uninsured motorist coverage (which is also called accident uninsurance coverage or AUC) may seem unnecessary in New York, because the Empire State has one of the lowest percentages of uninsured drivers in the country and the state minimum includes $25,000 of UIM coverage.
But a closer look tells a different story. The uninsured motorist figure does not include the number of underinsured motorists who have the legally required minimum coverage but do not have enough insurance to cover all the victim’s losses. And, an additional $50,000 or $75,000 of UIM coverage will probably only be an extra few dollars a month.
The additional UIM can make up the difference between the tortfeasor’s policy limits and your damages, so you do not pay out of pocket for some economic losses or settle for less than fair compensation for your noneconomic damages. In most cases, if there is a dispute regarding UIM coverage, the matter goes to binding arbitration instead of trial.
Drivers need to be aware of the unique auto insurance laws in New York. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Long Island, contact the Law Office of Cohen and Jaffe, LLP today. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.