Whiplash is among the most common injuries drivers and passengers suffer in vehicle collisions. When a seatbelt restrains the body, the head can still move forward. Once the neck stretches to its maximum capacity, it then snaps (or “whips”) back, potentially causing a number of internal injuries.
The costs of suffering whiplash can be significant. Drivers and passengers who are diagnosed with whiplash can face substantial medical bills, and many are forced to miss work for a period of time. This leaves many drivers and passengers with the question “Can I sue for whiplash?”
Understanding the Impact of New York’s No-Fault Auto Insurance Law
In order to know whether you can sue for whiplash, you first need to understand the impact of New York’s no-fault auto insurance law on your case. This law requires all drivers in New York to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance of at least $50,000. PIP provides no-fault coverage, which means insured drivers can file claims regardless of who is to blame for their injuries. Passengers can also file claims under their own PIP policy (if they have coverage) or under the driver’s policy (if they don’t).
The flip side of New York’s no-fault auto insurance law is that it prevents auto accident victims from suing at-fault drivers in many cases. In order to file suit against another driver, you must be able to prove that you have suffered a “serious injury.”
New York’s no-fault insurance law defines a serious injury as one that results in:
- Dismemberment or disfigurement;
- Loss of a bodily function;
- Loss of use, permanent consequential limitation, or significant limitation of use of an organ or system;
- Loss of a fetus; or,
- Inability to perform “substantially all of the material acts which constitute [a] 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 suffer whiplash in an auto accident and your whiplash does not qualify as a serious injury, then you will not be able to sue the other driver. In most cases, this means that you will be limited to seeking PIP coverage for your injury. PIP provides compensation for economic losses only, and specifically covers:
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses;
- 80 percent of lost earnings, up to a maximum of $2,000 per month; and,
- Up to $25 per day for reimbursement of necessary expenses resulting from the accident.
When Can You Sue for Whiplash?
While New York’s no-fault auto insurance law prevents drivers and passengers from suing for whiplash in most cases, there are exceptions. Here are three examples of scenarios in which it may be possible to sue for whiplash in New York:
- You Suffered Severe Whiplash That Qualifies as a Serious Injury. In some cases, whiplash will rise to the level of a serious injury under New York’s no-fault auto insurance law. It is possible for whiplash to have long-term or permanent effects. When it does, accident victims can potentially seek compensation outside of PIP.
- You Suffered Another Serious Injury in the Crash. If you suffered whiplash in addition to a “serious injury” (as defined by New York law), you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover all of your accident-related losses. This includes your economic losses and non-economic losses (i.e., pain and suffering) resulting from the crash.
- You Have a Claim Outside of Auto Insurance. If your accident resulted from a vehicle defect, an issue with the road, or any other factor unrelated to the negligence of another driver, you may have what is known as a third-party claim. Third-party claims are not subject to New York’s no-fault insurance law, so you can potentially sue even if your whiplash does not qualify as a serious injury.
If you have grounds to file a lawsuit you can still file a PIP insurance claim (and you will still need to file for PIP if you are seeking compensation under another driver’s auto insurance policy). Additionally, even if you have grounds to sue, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be worthwhile to do so.
There are many important factors to consider after suffering whiplash or any other injury in a crash. The best way to make informed decisions is to consult with an experienced New York auto accident lawyer.
Find Out If You Can Sue for a Whiplash Injury
The no-fault law in New York can make it difficult for those injured in accidents to know the extent of their legal rights and options in the event of an accident. At O’Connor & Partners, PLLC, we are committed to helping the victims of crashes caused by others pursue the full compensation they deserve.
Did you suffer whiplash in an auto accident caused by someone else? If so, you can contact O’Connor & Partners at (845) 303-8777 today for a free consultation.