Long Island Uninsured Motorist Accident Lawyer

Drivers exchanging information after an accidentNew York has the third lowest rate of uninsured drivers in the nation, according to 2012 statistics from the Insurance Research Council. While crashes with uninsured motorists are less likely here than in many states, they do occur regularly. If you or a family member suffered injuries in a car crash caused by a motorist who does not carry insurance, you still have options. Call an uninsured motorist accident attorney on Long Island at Goldstein & Bashner to learn more.

New York Insurance Laws

New York requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance. This includes:

  • $50,000 in no-fault personal injury protection coverage
  • $25,000 liability insurance for injury to one person
  • $50,000 liability coverage for everyone hurt in an accident
  • $10,000 liability insurance for property damage
  • $25,000 uninsured motorist coverage for injury to one person
  • $50,000 uninsured motorist coverage for everyone hurt in an accident

Many people opt for policies with higher limits because these limits are quite low. A catastrophic injury may easily surpass the $50,000 personal injury protection policy required by law. You can also purchase supplementary uninsured motorist (SUM) coverage up to the liability limits of your policy.

Of course, some people also opt to drive illegally, without the required coverage. These irresponsible, uninsured drivers are breaking laws meant to protect your physical and financial well-being. Luckily, you still have options to recover compensation if one of them causes a crash and you or a loved one suffers injuries.

No-Fault System

New York follows a no-fault system for car accident claims, meaning you must first turn to your own insurer for compensation. Your insurer should cover your medical costs, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, and other expenses up to the maximum limit of your policy.

Only once you exhaust this coverage can you consider filing a third-party claim or a claim based on your own uninsured motorist policy. This means that, with many minor accidents, whether or not an uninsured motorist caused the crash does not alter the process of filing a claim and receiving a settlement.

In other cases, however, you should discuss your situation with a Long Island uninsured motorist accident attorney to look at your options and determine the best way to get the money you deserve.

If you only carry the state minimum coverage and spend more than a couple of days in the hospital, it is likely that you will exceed your coverage limits. This is especially true when you consider all of your losses, including missing work, paying for prescriptions, and continuing therapy.

Reaching a Settlement

It is never a good idea to accept a settlement offer without first running it by an experienced personal injury attorney. This is true even for settlements offered by your own insurance company under your personal injury protection policy.

Insurance companies task their employers with settling claims as quickly — and as inexpensively — as possible. A competent Long Island uninsured motorist accident attorney can help you assess all of your injuries and expenses related to the crash before accepting a settlement.

Steps to Take Following An Accident

If you suffered severe injuries in the crash, it is likely that you surpassed the limits of your personal injury protection “no-fault” policy early in your treatment. Yet you still have rehabilitation, physical therapy, and ongoing care to pay for. The costs of life-saving medical treatment add up quickly.

The most important thing when you find yourself in this situation is to continue getting the care you need. Do not let the financial side of things put a stop to your recovery. If you do so, the insurer may claim that you are not injured, that you are exaggerating your injuries, or that you are responsible for your injuries because you refused medical treatment.

Note: You can use your health insurance to pay for your injuries while you are waiting for your settlement, though your health insurer may recover its costs from your settlement.

The second most important thing is to find a trusted personal injury attorney to manage your quest for compensation. Not only can your lawyer help you secure money for the damages you suffered, many law firms can help you find resources to pay for medical care in the meantime.

Impact of Uninsured Motorist Coverage

New York state laws require you to carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, which you can use to pay your medical bills after an accident if the other driver was uninsured (after you have exhausted your personal injury protection coverage).

UM coverage also covers your injuries if you are involved in an accident with a driver who flees the scene.

If your UM coverage is not enough to pay your medical bills, you can look to your supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist (SUM) coverage. SUM coverage is optional so unless you accepted the coverage, you may be out of luck.

You must also be able to establish five elements to be eligible to use your SUM coverage:

  • You must give your insurer advanced notice that you intend to make a SUM claim
  • You must exhaust all other policies
  • Your bodily injury limits must be more than the at-fault driver’s
  • You must be an “insured” (e.g., yourself, a spouse, passenger in the car, etc.)
  • Your losses must have been from an actual accident, not a staged incident

Your attorney can help you establish these five elements and receive the compensation you need and deserve.

Types of Compensation

Your uninsured motorist coverage may provide compensation for any of the following (check your policy for details):

  • Any residual medical bills or rehabilitation costs
  • Expense of ongoing nursing care
  • Costs associated with making your home handicap accessible
  • Lost wages
  • Money lost due to not being able to return to work
  • Pain and suffering and other non-economic losses

Impact of Exceeding Insurance Benefits

Because New York’s no-fault laws only allow you to step outside of this system and take legal action in specific cases, you must prove that you suffered serious injuries or that your damages exceed your PIP benefits to file a lawsuit (and to use your SUM coverage). Some of these serious injuries include:

  • Broken bones
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Permanent loss of limitation of use of a body part, system, or function
  • Disability lasting at least 90 days

However, this may not be the best option for you because if the driver does not carry insurance, it is unlikely that he will be able to pay for your injuries.

Discuss your options with a Long Island uninsured motorist accident attorney.

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