Injured in a Car Accident – CAN I SUE?

This question is not as simple as it may sound.   Under most circumstances, if you suffer an injury and another person shares some or all of the blame, then a lawsuit against that individual seems clearly your right.   It does not necessarily work that way in motor vehicle accidents in New York State.

New York State has made a tradeoff.   Regardless of whether or not and individual is responsible for a motor vehicle accident that occurred, that individual will be entitled to payments for his/her medical costs and lost  wages, and some other expenses as well.  For  passengers in vehicles, these expenses will be paid  by the insurance company of the vehicle in which you find  yourself.   Since “fault” is not an issue, these payments are known as “NO FAULT” coverage.

However, in return for this guaranteed payment for medical expenses and lost wages, the traveling public had its right to sue curtailed !   A person may only sue if the injury he/she sustained is a “SERIOUS INJURY”.

What is a “SERIOUS INJURY”?   That is an injury that is defined by the statute.  It can be specific: any fracture (broken bone) meets the requirement–or as lawyers say, it meets the “threshold” permitting a person to sue.  More troubling, the acceptable injury may be much  more vague (see below).   What is clear is that injuries that are passing in nature, and do not involve significant permanent damage, will probably not meet the “threshold”.

Here’s the problem. If a person sues regardless of the seriousness of his/her injury, and the party being sued asks the court to throw out the case  because the injury is not serious enough, the court has the right to “dismiss” the case if the judge decides the “threshold” is not met..   And this can happen a year or two after the case has begun, at which point a significant amount of time, effort and expense has been invested in that case, which then is all lost !

Bringing a lawsuit always requires an car accident attorney well versed in the field of law involved.   This is certainly true in a case involving such a potentially confusing area as MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS.

Statutory Definition of “Serious Injury”

“Serious injury” means a personal injury which results in 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; or a 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 ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.

Posted by New York City Injury Lawyer Steve Orlow


Car Insurance – Facts No One Tells You!

Auto Insurance Facts that No One Will Tell You That you SHOULD Know!

Uninsured Motorist Coverage * Underinsured Motorist Coverage * Spousal Insurance

In New York State, as in every other state, it is illegal to drive a vehicle without proper insurance coverage.  Insurance serves to protect you, and those driving with you, as well as strangers with whom you may be in an accident at some time.

New York State requires a minimum “liability” coverage of $25,000 for privately used passenger vehicles.  This is the coverage you have in case you are sued by others because of an automobile accident.In purchasing automobile insurance, you will also automatically receive “No-Fault” coverage for certain expenses you may incur in any car accident.

These include payments for medical treatment and lost wages.   It is referred to as “No-Fault” payments because the “victim” in an car accident will be paid these benefits regardless of whether that person was or was not at fault for the accident.  Those benefits are paid regardless of  fault, and for an injured vehicle occupant, the insurance company of the vehicle in which that person was riding is the company that pays those benefits.

There are other coverages available when you order automobile insurance that you should know about.   These are most often not explained to you when you order your insurance and may be the most important of all.

First of all, you should be aware of the fact that you have the option of raising the limits of both your “liability” coverage and your “No-Fault” coverage.   If you can afford to do so, you probably should .   First, it will protect you and your assets to a greater extent if you are unfortunately involved in an auto accident and are sued.   Second, it will cover your medical expenses and lost wages to a much greater degree if you are seriously injured in that accident.

Most importantly, greater liability coverage will allow you to purchase greater amounts of both “Uninsured Motorist” insurance and “Supplemental Underinsured Motorist” insurance, the importance of both of which cannot be stressed strongly enough.

“Uninsured Motorist” insurance will cover you, or the occupants of your vehicle, up to the limit of your coverage, in the event the automobile with which you had an accident had NO insurance at all.  Accidents with uninsured vehicles happen with some frequency, and then “Uninsured Motorist” coverage on your own vehicle compensates you and the occupants of your vehicle for “pain and suffering” which would not otherwise be available.   “Uninsured Motorist” coverage is part of every auto policy, but increased amounts over the basic $25,000 offered is only available if you first purchase “liability” coverage over the required $25,000 minimum.

Supplemental Underinsured” motorist coverage may be the most important of all.  It is rarely mentioned by insurance salespeople–it is surprisingly cheap and they do not realize much profit from its sale.   This coverage becomes vital when you are unfortunately involved in a serious accident and you or the occupants of your vehicle are very seriously injured–and the accident was not your fault.   If the other vehicle, which was at fault, has insurance, BUT it is only a modest amount, it will probably not be nearly enough to adequately compensate you, or any other seriously injured person in your vehicle, for the pain and suffering they have gone through.   In that event, you and the other injured party or parties can simply turn to the “Supplemental Underinsured Motorist” coverage of your own auto policy to make up some or all of the  difference.

One last very recent addition to available insurance coverage in New York is “Spousal Insurance”.   This is important when you realize that, if you are married, there is no one with whom you drive more often than your spouse.   The rule has always been that one spouse may not sue the other.  While you could sue a parent, a child, a sibling, you could not sue a spouse.  If you were driving with your spouse and the driving spouse caused an accident, there was no available way to seek an award for pain and suffering.  That has now changed.  You can request “Spousal Insurance”.  This, too, is not very costly, and could be invaluable.   It should certainly be looked into and seriously considered.

Unfortunately, most people do not realize the shortcomings of the car insurance coverage they have until it is too late–until after they are involved in an accident.  Everyone would be well advised to review, very carefully, with a knowledgeable person, either a trusted insurance broker or an injury attorney well versed in automobile matters, the coverage they currently have to determine its adequacy.