Being involved in a car accident is stressful. You must deal with the property damage to your vehicle. If you were injured, you must deal with the injury, missed time from work, and an insurance claim. 

However, being sued after a car accident in New York raises the stress level much higher. You must now deal with a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages. Try to remain calm until you talk with your car accident attorney and your insurance company.

If you are served with a lawsuit for your car accident, notify your insurance company immediately. Your liability car insurance coverage may cover the car accident claim. Most insurance companies retain attorneys to respond to the lawsuit.

However, you need to protect your best interests. Therefore, you may want to consult a car accident attorney too. A car accident attorney can review the lawsuit and advise you of your legal rights and options to protect yourself against liability for the claim.

Do not delay in contacting your insurance company and a car accident attorney. If you fail to respond to the lawsuit by the deadline in the summons, you could be held in default by the court. Being held in default could result in a personal judgment against you.

I Thought New York Was a No-Fault Insurance State

Yes, New York is a no-fault state for car accident claims. All drivers in New York are required to purchase a minimum of $50,000 in no-fault car insurance. No-fault insurance is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.

PIP coverage pays benefits to you regardless of whether you caused the car accident or someone else caused the crash. When you are involved in a car accident, you file a claim with your insurance provider under your PIP coverage.

Your PIP coverage pays for necessary and reasonable medical care related to the automobile accident. It also reimburses you for up to 80 percent of your lost wages, if you cannot work because of your injuries. The maximum monthly payment is $2,000 per month for three years.

PIP coverage will also reimburse you for other necessary and reasonable expenses up to $25 per day for travel to doctor’s appointments or help with household chores. However, PIP coverage only pays benefits up to the policy limit.

There are some limitations to no-fault insurance coverage. If you were intoxicated or injured while committing a felony, PIP insurance will not cover the car accident. 

If each person’s PIP insurance pays benefits for the car accident, why are you being sued?

Liability for Car Accidents in New York

Each driver in New York must also purchase liability insurance in the minimum amount of $25,000 for bodily injury to one person ($50,000 per accident) and $50,000 for wrongful death. Liability car insurance compensates accident victims for damages not covered by PIP insurance.

Under New York’s insurance laws, a person can sue for damages caused by a car accident if the person sustained a serious injury. “Serious injury” is defined by statute as an injury that results in:

  • Death
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Fractures 
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Dismemberment
  • Permanent loss of the use of a body function, organ, system, or member
  • Permanent consequential limitation of the use of a body member or organ
  • A significant limitation of the use of a body system or function
  • A medically determined impairment or injury that is not permanent, but prevents the person from performing substantially all of the material acts that make up the person’s normal daily activities for 90 days or more during the six months following the car accident

If a person’s injuries meet one of the definitions of a “serious” injury, that person can sue the at-fault driver for damages. Damages include economic losses, including compensation for all income loss and other financial losses not compensated by PIP insurance. 

PIP insurance does not compensate accident victims for pain and suffering damages or non-economic damages. A victim who sustains a “serious” injury can sue the at-fault driver for compensation for:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish and trauma
  • Emotional distress 
  • Psychological injuries, including depression and PTSD
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Permanent impairments and disabilities
  • Loss of quality of life

If you are sued for a car accident, it is likely because the other party was severely injured. If you do not have enough liability insurance to pay the claim, you could be personally liable for the person’s damages. 

However, the other party must prove that you caused the accident. There could be several defenses available you could use to limit your personal liability, such as comparative fault. Talking with a car accident lawyer is one of the best ways you can protect your best interest after any car accident in New York.