Every state has a different system for determining compensation after a car crash. Some states have comparative negligence, where drivers receive less compensation based on their degree of fault.
In New York, we have a system of no-fault, where the fault in causing the crash is not relevant to the payment of first-party benefits for medical expenses and lost wages. But how exactly does no-fault work, and what does it mean for you?
The Basics of No-Fault
No-fault insurance simply means that both drivers in a crash are able to claim damages from their own insurance company, regardless of who actually caused the accident. This is great for drivers because it guarantees that they will receive basic coverage up to $50,000 for medical expenses and lost wages regardless of fault.
In at-fault states, drivers who held the majority of fault would not be able to claim the full amount of their medical expenses and lost wages, even if the crash left them unable to work for several weeks. Not so in New York.
No-fault is also good for drivers because it means the insurance companies have fewer traps and tactics to reduce your damages claim for lost wages and medical expenses. These basic damages cannot be reduced by your fault and your own insurance carrier must pay them even if you caused the accident.
An Important Caveat
No-fault sounds simple, but there’s an important aspect that makes New York different from other states. There are certain criteria in a crash that, if met, allows the injured driver to file a personal injury claim for pain and suffering and outside of their claim against their own carrier for medical expenses and lost wages.
To file a personal injury claim for a New York car crash against an at-fault driver, the accident must either:
Cause more than $50,000 in combined lost wages and medical bills
Result in what New York State defines as a “Serious Injury”
Under the law, a serious injury is defined as “death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system.
Any New York driver who experiences these elements after a crash should contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. Hiring an attorney after a serious injury significantly increases your chances of obtaining the full compensation you need to cover all of your damages.
Challenges of a No-Fault System
While no-fault systems help more people recover from serious injuries, they are not perfect. No-fault states universally have higher insurance premiums than comparative negligence states. In New York, premiums have risen for the past six years (particularly in New York City).
The reason for these higher premiums are simple: Insurance companies always have to pay. In at-fault states, one insurance company pays while the other one does not. In New York, both companies pay some amount for most crashes. That, in turn, means higher premiums to cover the growing cost.
Likewise, because there is no fault assessment, the insurance companies are more likely to raise your premiums after a serious crash. The only time they cannot raise premiums is you make a comprehensive coverage claim, or the crash does less than $2,000 in damages.
As you can see, navigating a no-fault claim isn’t as easy as the name might suggest. For that reason, it’s often wise to consult an experienced car accident attorney after a serious crash. If your injuries pass the no-fault threshold, hiring an attorney could be the difference between struggling to cover your bills and getting the recovery you need to move forward.
If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries in a car crash, our Rochester car accident attorneys are here to help. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced attorney from Faraci Lange, LLP, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (888) 997-4110. We’re here to help.