No-fault insurance is a system in which your insurance company reimburses you or pays directly for damages and medical costs stemming from an accident, even if you weren't the person at fault in the accident. If you've moved from a tort-system state to a no-fault state, the switch in procedures can be confusing at first.
In states that have a tort system the insurance policy of the at-fault driver pays for damages to your vehicle, lost wages, and medical costs as well as covers non-economic costs such as emotional distress. If the at-fault person's insurance does not agree to pay by accepting responsibility, a lawsuit may ensue.
The no-fault system is meant to eliminate many of those lawsuits. If the damages are under a certain amount, then medical costs and lost wages are paid by your insurance company regardless of who was at fault in the collision. Damage to your vehicle may also be covered depending on the state and your coverage. Because your own insurance policy is covering damages you have no contact with the other driver or his/her insurance provider. Likewise, if you cause the accident, the other people involved go to their insurance companies. Instead of having a traditional auto insurance policy, you have a personal injury protection policy.
The advantage to a no fault system is that basic, economic damages are paid out without any hassle. The disadvantage is that non-economic damages, what most people refer to as "pain and suffering" damages are not available through no-fault insurance.
In a no-fault state, a traditional personal injury lawsuit is not completely out of the question; however, the injured party's injuries must reach a certain threshold before additional damages can be sought through a traditional personal injury lawsuit. Typically, the victim's injuries must be severe and/or disfiguring. A whiplash injury, for example, would not meet the threshold required to pursue litigation. New York's no-fault statute defines a serious injury, for purposes of pursuing additional compensation, as follows:
"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."
If you have been injured in a Queens motor vehicle accident and you feel your injuries are severe enough to warrant a traditional personal injury lawsuit, you need to contact the experienced attorneys at Simon & Gilman, LLP right away to find out what legal options you may have.