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car insurance

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By Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

In this column, we have previously discussed several issues concerning, and resulting from, automobile accidents. This included No-Fault Insurance, Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist coverage, the amount of insurance you should purchase to protect yourself, and the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC). Yet, the question occurring to most accident victims is, how do I seek compensation for my own injuries when I was not at fault for the accident?

Under what circumstances can you make such a claim?

New York’s No-Fault Insurance Law governs the criteria which enables you to make a claim or bring a lawsuit. We explained previously that this law has provisions covering the payment of medical bills and other expenses. However, this law, specifically § 5102(d) of the New York State Insurance Law, affords you the right to make a claim when you are injured. This section defines and outlines the criteria necessary to receive compensation (i.e., a serious injury):

— a personal injury which results in (1) death; (2) dismemberment; (3) significant disfigurement; (4) a fracture; (5) loss of a fetus; (6) permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; (7) permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; (8) significant limitation of use of a body function or system; (9) 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.

What does this definition mean, and how does it affect my ability to bring a claim or lawsuit? If, for example, you sustained a fractured bone, the permanent loss of the use of a body part or organ, or if you meet any of the other provisions outlined above, you have met what is commonly called the “No-Fault Threshold,” enabling you to obtain compensation.

In order to start the process of making such a claim, you must contact the insurance company for the vehicle that caused the accident. The primary insurance company is that of the at-fault driver. You can identify this company from a three-digit code contained in the police report prepared by the officer responding to the scene of the collision.

Please note that if you are physically able to, calling the police at the scene of the accident is extremely important. Notifying the police later on, as soon as you can, is crucial. When you contact the responsible insurance company or that company’s representative contacts you, you will be provided with a claim number to use for all future communications. 

Now you are ready to make a formal claim! In speaking to the responsible insurance carrier, describe your injuries in detail but do not explain how the accident occurred. Remember, whatever you say can be used against you later on if you say too much. Put most simply, you need to advocate for yourself by documenting your injuries and their necessary treatment but be careful what you say at all times. At this point, the monetary “value” of your claim becomes the principal focus and issue. If you have not retained the services of a lawyer at this point, it is strongly urged that you do so.

In our next column, we will endeavor to explain how a claim is evaluated so that decisions can be made as to whether to accept any offers the insurance company may make as a result. 

We, in closing, highly recommend that you precisely document your injuries and follow up with an experienced adjuster, advocate, or attorney to assist you in going forward with your claim.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.

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By A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq.

After an automobile accident, you should always stop and notify the police. Indeed, under New York State (NYS) law, anyone involved in an accident must stop at the scene, and if the accident caused injuries or significant property damage, it is very important for you to notify your insurance company right away.  

A car accident can have far-reaching consequences on everyday life for you and any other driver or passenger involved. Although an accident may occur within the blink of an eye, the subsequent negative impacts on an injured person’s ability to work and perform daily activities may continue well into the future. This may potentially jeopardize the health and financial security of all parties involved in the accident (driver, passenger, etc.). The property loss that may be sustained may pale when compared to the severe bodily harm from a crash.

As we have discussed previously, New York imposes the following minimum amounts for liability coverage:

• $10,000 for property damage coverage (PDL) from a single accident

• Bodily injury coverage (BIL) of $25,000 per person and $50,000 for all persons injured

• Death coverage of $50,000 per person killed in an accident and $100,000 for all persons killed in an accident

• No-Fault coverage of $50,000

Types of Automobile Liability Insurance

Liability insurance covers damages if someone makes a claim against you for loss or harm as a result of your negligence. Your insurance provider protects you and reimburses the individual who made a claim against you up to the extent of your coverage. In addition to being required by law, liability insurance is crucial to avoid out-of-pocket losses.

If you cause a car accident, your liability insurance, specifically your bodily injury liability policy, will pay for the injured parties’ pain and suffering or permanent injuries after a settlement is reached or a personal injury verdict is rendered. Remember, NYS only mandates that you hold accident coverage of $25,000 per individual. This amount should be increased to protect you and your assets, so paying for a policy that at least provides $100,000 per individual and $300,000 per accident in coverage for all injured persons is essential, and more is strongly recommended 

So how much liability coverage is enough?

As much as you can reasonably afford. Don’t scrimp on liability coverage when deciding how much auto insurance you need. Doubling liability coverage does not mean you will pay twice as much for the additional protection. Low liability limits place your savings and assets at risk should you cause an accident, making it imperative that you purchase as much liability insurance as you can. This is especially so because medical expenses are constantly increasing. 

High liability limits protect you if you cause an accident and prevent you from possibly having to sell your home to cover accident costs caused by a severe injury to the other party. Therefore, it is crucial that you assess whether your liability limits accurately reflect the assets at risk should an accident occur due to your negligence.

A. Craig Purcell, Esq. is a partner at the law firm of Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket and is a former President of the Suffolk County Bar Association and Vice President of the New York State Bar Association.

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What all cyclists should know

By Shannon Malone, Esq.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq.

If you have read our previous articles, you know New York is a “No Fault” state requiring all vehicle owners to have Personal Injury Protection insurance (PIP). PIP provides coverage for costs sustained as a result of a motor vehicle accident, such as medical bills, medications, transportation costs, and other expenses, regardless of who is “at fault” or who caused the accident. The law also provides that all owners of motor vehicles keep a minimum liability insurance policy of $25,000 to cover injuries to other drivers caused by their negligence.

But what happens when a driver with no insurance causes an accident or you are hit by a driver who leaves the scene before being identified? What happens if you are a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist and do not carry your own automobile insurance policy? 

Fortunately, the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation, or MVAIC, provides New Yorkers with an alternative way to be compensated. Article 52 of the New York State Insurance Law established the MVAIC to cover No-Fault and injury claims when no other auto liability insurance is available.  It was established in 1958 by the New York State Legislature in enacting Article 17-A (now Article 52) of the New York Insurance Law.  MVAIC operates as a non-profit organization and provides no-fault benefits of up to $50,000.00 to cover your own medical bills and provides up to $25,000.00 per person as compensation for anyone injured in a crash. 

The MVAIC is funded through levies on insurance companies providing automobile liability insurance in the State of New York in accordance with Section 5207 of the Insurance Law. Other sources of funds include fees collected from self-insurers by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles under Sections 316 and 370-4 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, investment income, and subrogation recoveries.

There are distinct requirements to qualify for MVAIC Benefits. (1) You must report the accident to the police within 24 hours; (2) there mustn’t be any other car insurance available to cover the loss; (3) the accident must have taken place in New York. (4) Additionally, you cannot own the uninsured car or be the spouse of the uninsured vehicle’s owner. 

For hit-and-run accidents, you must file a Notice of Intention with the MVAIC to file a claim within 90 days of the accident. If the uninsured vehicle’s owner was identified, you must file this notice within 180 days of the accident. Next, you must file an Application for Motor Vehicle No-Fault Benefits or an “NF-2” form which requires a description of the accident and your injuries, the names and addresses of the doctors who treated you, and the treating hospital. You will also need to submit an accounting of your medical bills resulting from the accident and those anticipated in the future. Finally, you must complete a Household Affidavit, which states where you lived and who lived with you at the time of the accident. 

When the MVAIC receives your application, it opens a case file and initiates an eligibility review. As part of the process, an MVAIC claims examiner may interview you, and the MVAIC will notify you whether your application is confirmed or denied.

It is crucial that all cyclists and pedestrians familiarize themselves with the application process and the deadlines detailed above after becoming involved in an accident with a vehicle that leaves the scene of the incident and consult with a lawyer to help process this little-known application.

Shannon L. Malone, Esq. is an Associate Attorney at Glynn Mercep Purcell and Morrison LLP in Setauket. She graduated from Touro Law, where she wrote and served as an editor of the Touro Law Review. Ms. Malone is a proud Stony Brook University alumna.