Determining who is liable in a car accident that involves more than one driver can be complicated in some states. New York is a no-fault state, which at first may seem less complex. But if the car accident is severe and the damages exceed what’s covered in insurance policies, it can be more challenging to figure out. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is a No-Fault State?
A no-fault state is one in which each person’s insurance pays for their own crash related medical bills and wage loss, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. For example, if another driver collides with your car while running a red light, your insurance pays your hospital and other medical bills even though the other driver was at fault.
In New York, there are minimum amounts of insurance vehicle owners are legally required to carry.
- $50,000 for basic economic loss (crash related medical bills, hospital bills, physical therapy, etc.) These are referred to as no fault benefits
- $25,000/$50,0000 bodily injury per person
- $50,000/$100,000 for death
- $10,000 for property damage per accident
These are required minimums. People have the option to have higher coverage amounts for additional fees.
This coverage applies not only to vehicle owners and drivers but passengers in the affected vehicles and pedestrians or bicyclists injured by a vehicle. The claims can include out-of-pocket medical costs, prescriptions, lost income, transportation to and from medical appointments (limited to $25.00 per day), and housekeeping costs if you have to hire someone because the accident caused you to be incapable of handling that on your own.
How Long Can Someone File for No-Fault Claims in New York?
This is an important consideration. In New York, claimants have only 30 days from the date of the accident to file an application for no fault benefits with their insurer. After that time, the insurer can deny the claims. Then all the costs and damages as described above are no longer covered. This is one reason that even though New York is a no-fault state, you should consider hiring a personal injury attorney with experience in car accident claims to ensure you don’t miss an important deadline (or if the damages are much greater than the maximum your insurance will cover).
What Happens if my Damages Exceed the Amount of Insurance I Have?
If someone’s insurance limits are reached, but their out-of-pocket costs are higher, then the situation becomes more complicated. New York is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that each driver’s fault is estimated when assessing liability, and the amount of damages they can receive is assigned proportionately.
In the example we used above, one driver struck another while running a red light. But the other driver was speeding, so both had some fault in the accident. Let’s say that a jury determines that the driver who ran the red light was 60% at fault while the speeding driver was 40% at fault. Their portion of the liability would reduce the amount of damages awarded to the speeding driver. In this case, that’s 40%.
Some states, like Florida, as of March 24, 2023, have adopted a form of comparative negligence known as modified comparative negligence. This means that if the injured driver is more than 50% liable for the accident, they can’t claim damages from anyone else. In the example above, the person who ran the red light would have lost their right to claim damages because they were assessed to be 60% responsible. This is in contrast to New York’s pure comparative negligence, where someone could be held 99% responsible and still receive 1% of the damages.
What Should I Do if I Was Involved in a Car Accident?
First, have yourself checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. Car accidents can cause injuries for which symptoms may not appear immediately, including severe, even life-threatening injuries. By the time symptoms appear, the situation may have gravely worsened. Even if they’re not severe, there’s a limited amount of time you can file claims for the no-fault portion of the damages, as discussed above.
While still at the accident scene (if you’re physically able), call the police and file a report. Collect the names and contact information of anyone involved in the accident and any eyewitnesses that saw the accident happen. Note if there are buildings nearby that might have had security cameras that could have the accident recorded on video.
After collecting that information and seeing a doctor call us at 914-946-2500 for a free initial consultation with one of our White Plains, NY, car accident attorneys. We’ll work with you to get the best possible outcomes for your case.
Equally important as what you should do is what you shouldn’t: Don’t talk about the accident with anyone else involved in it (except to get their contact information), and don’t have any communication (in writing or by phone) with anyone else’s insurance representative or attorney. Suppose the accident is significant enough that one or more people may file a lawsuit. In that case, the insurer for the at fault vehicle’s job is to make you accept as much liability for the accident as possible because New York is a pure comparative negligence state. They may also try to convince you to accept a much lower settlement than you might otherwise receive. Don’t talk with them or sign anything; just refer them to your attorney.