What you need to know when purchasing your New York Automobile Insurance policy
Under New York law you are required to purchase certain minimum insurance coverage. At present a driver must purchase $25,000.00 in liability coverage for injuries or damage to one person and $50,000.00 for injuries or damage caused to more than one person. This coverage protects you in the event that you cause injury to someone else. At the same time you must also purchase no-fault or first party coverage, sometimes called Personal Injury Protection (PIP), in the amount of $50,000.00. This is coverage for your own medical bills and lost wages in the event of an accident.
Under current New York law, if you are injured in an automobile accident then your own insurance company is responsible for paying all your medical bills and lost wages up to the limit of the coverage you have purchased. It does not matter whose fault the accident is (i.e. no-fault), as your own insurance carrier must pay these bills. If you have opted for additional personal injury protection (APIP) or optional basic economic loss (OBEL) coverage than you may also have additional coverage for medical bills and wage loss.
The Serious Injury Threshold
When New York’s no-fault law was enacted, it provided for your protection that all of your medical bills, lost wages and incidental expenses would be covered by your own insurance. However, in exchange the insurance industry wished to eliminate the so called "minor" cases. In exchange for the no-fault benefits a driver could no longer recover for any personal injuries suffered unless they were able show that they suffered a “serious injury.” This meant that even though you are injured and even though the accident was clearly the other driver’s fault, you could not recover any money for your pain and suffering unless you are able to show that you suffered an injury that qualifies under this standard.
Although “serious injury” is defined by statute, there is great dispute between the courts on what injuries actually qualify under this standard. Under the statute certain injuries clearly qualify such as: death, a fracture, loss of a limb, serious disfiguring scars, and loss of a fetus. Certain other categories are determined on a case by case basis, typically based on what your physician and medical records say. These include injuries where the doctor states that the injury is permanent, has resulted in a significant limitation in the ability to use a body part, or where your injuries have prevented you from performing your usual and customary daily activities for at least 90 out of the first 180 days following the accident. In many cases it may take many months to determine if you qualify and we would urge you to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after your crash to make this determination.
Supplementary Underinsured Motorist (SUM) Coverage
The next choice that you will have in your insurance policy is whether to purchase Supplementary Uninsured Coverage (SUM). This coverage provides both uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage. The uninsured motorist coverage portion of the policy allows you to recover if you are injured by a driver who has no insurance coverage (a very common occurrence in this area). The underinsured coverage portion allows you to recover additional money in the event that the other driver has less liability coverage than is needed to compensate you for your injuries. You may only purchase SUM coverage up to the limit of your liability coverage. We would urge you to purchase this coverage as it provides you and your family the best protection in the event that you are injured by another driver. The cost of purchasing this coverage or increasing the amount of your coverage to equal your liability limits is quite minor and you should consult with your agent for a quotation. Failure to have adequate SUM coverage would mean that if you or your family is injured by a driver who has limited coverage you or your family could be left with inadequate compensation. Indeed, you cannot control what insurance others purchase but, you can control the amount of your SUM coverage. This is likely the most important insurance you can buy and an integral part of protecting your family.
Let Us Help
If you have any questions about which coverage to purchase feel free to consult with your insurance agent or call our office at 1-800-524-9481 and we would be happy to give you more information free of charge.
We are here to help so, if you have questions or have a possible case, please call us at either of the numbers listed below. Or, complete the Contact Us form with information about your claim.
Toll free: 800-524-9481
1616 West State Street
P.O. Box 648
Olean, NY 14760