Pedestrian Accidents and New York’s No Fault Law

If you have been a pedestrian struck by a car or other motor vehicle in New York, you should receive coverage through New York’s No-Fault Insurance Law. The insurance company of the driver who hit you should provide coverage for your medical expenses and property damage. If you believe you are entitled to additional compensation due to pain and suffering, then you will need to file a lawsuit against the driver who hit you to collect those damages.

Pedestrian Accidents in New York

According to New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) statistics, there were 15,620 pedestrian accidents in New York in 2008. Simple physics means that a pedestrian hit by a car or other motor vehicle is going to suffer some type of injury. Those pedestrian accidents killed 302 people and New York DMV reports that 99.8 percent of pedestrian accidents resulted in an injury.

While there are steps we can all take to protect ourselves while walking (see my article on pedestrian safety), some accidents cannot be avoided. If you are a pedestrian and a car in New York State hits you, make sure that you seek immediate medical care. Do not let lack of health insurance stop you from receiving treatment because New York’s No-Fault Insurance should cover your medical expenses.

Take Care of Your Health

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, the most important issue is to take care of your health. If you need help, call emergency services or have someone else call and request an ambulance. Many injuries seem minor – sore backs, headaches – but can portend larger troubles – spinal injuries, concussions – so err on the side of having a physician examine you. Follow the directions and advice of your doctor. For example, if your doctor recommends physical therapy, follow through with the physical therapy.

Contacting the Driver’s Insurance Company

New York State is a No-Fault Insurance State and No-Fault Insurance should cover injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. If you are a pedestrian hit by a car, the driver’s insurance coverage will cover your medical expenses under No-Fault.

The first step to receiving coverage is to identify the driver’s insurance company. If possible, you should collect the identifying information about the driver who struck you and his or her insurance company at the scene of the accident. If you are unable to do so while at the scene of the accident, you can request a copy of the police report, which will have that information. You can usually obtain the police report from the local police precinct, though the local precinct may refer you to a central records office.

The police report will have an Insurance Company Code for the driver of the vehicle that hit you. You can look up that code and find the contact information for each insurance company at the Department of Motor Vehicles website. For example, Geico has code number 639 and State Farm has code number 328.

Once you find the name and contact information for the insurance company, you can call the contact, tell the company about the accident and request that they send you a No-Fault application (Form NF-2).  Most insurance companies will immediately send the form and they will usually have an insurance company representative contact you.

If the company fails to send you a form, you should send them a letter stating that you were hurt in an accident by a car driven by one of their customers. Include a copy of the police report in the letter. You should send the letter via certified mail to the contact address listed with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Sending the letter will protect your rights under No-Fault and will inspire the most intractable insurance company to respond.

You only have 30 days to file a claim, so please do not procrastinate; notify the driver’s insurance company right away.

If the Driver’s Insurance Company Contacts You

In many cases, a representative of the driver’s insurance company will contact you even before you contact the insurance company. If so, you should request to file a No-Fault Claim (Form NF-2). You should say little else to the insurance company representative. By definition, No-Fault coverage does not depend upon who was at fault in an accident, so there is no need to answer questions about the accident or to address responsibility. If you say the wrong thing, you may jeopardize your ability to collect payment for your pain and suffering.

Remember, if you are a pedestrian seriously injured by a vehicle, it is likely that you will bring a lawsuit against the driver for your pain and suffering. The driver’s insurance company defends the driver in any lawsuit – the same company providing no-fault benefits. Anything you say to the no-fault insurance adjuster will be used against you in a subsequent lawsuit.

Paying for Your Medical Bills

You should notify any doctor or medical professional who treats you that you suffered your injuries in a pedestrian accident and that No-Fault will provide your medical coverage. Most doctors readily accept No-Fault coverage. In fact, most doctors will ask you if No-Fault is involved.

The driver’s insurance company should work with you to pay for your medical bills. Most policies in New York cover the first $50,000 of medical expenses.

Keep Notes and Gather Evidence

You should do all you can to gather evidence and information about the accident. A pedestrian accident can be very upsetting. Do your best to remember the details of the accident. Take the time to write down a description of the car that hit you, including year, make, model and color — and the exact location of the collision and how it happened. If you did not take photos right after the accident, go back to take photos of the accident scene. If there were witnesses, write down their contact information.

If You Think You Have a Lawsuit, Consult an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney

Many victims of pedestrian accidents ask if they can seek compensation beyond No-Fault for their injuries. New York No-Fault coverage is designed to pay for medical bills up to at least $50,000. If you have damages that exceed those limits or if you have suffered significant pain and injury, then you will need to sue the driver of the car to recover for your damages. Each case is different, but all must meet at least the following requirements:

  • Another person or party caused or contributed to the accident: Even if you may have contributed to the accident, if another person or party contributed to the accident, you may be able to sue for compensation because of New York Comparative Liability Law. You can click here to learn more, though if you have any doubts, you should consult with an attorney.
  • You suffered a serious injury: New York’s No-Fault Law is designed to ensure rapid payment for medical expenses, but makes it hard to sue for damages unless a person suffered a serious injury. The law lists the conditions that meet this requirement, including the most obvious: death, loss of a limb and broken bones. Many pedestrian accident injuries involve soft tissue injuries (sprains, damaged muscles, damaged vertebral discs, etc.) which may or may not meet the serious injury threshold. You can read more about the New York State Threshold requirement here, though if you have any doubts, you should consult with an attorney.

If you have any questions or doubts, you should consult with a New York personal injury lawyer who has experience with pedestrian accident cases.

How Much Will This Cost Me?

A good lawyer should not charge you a fee for a consultation. All my consultations are free. If you have questions, call an attorney and discuss the facts of your case. A good lawyer will be able to answer your questions and tell you the best way to proceed.

If you have a case, the lawyer should accept the case on a contingency basis. This means the lawyer will not charge you any money upfront and will take his or her fee from any money you receive in the case. Under most contingency arrangements (including mine), if the lawyer does not get compensation for you, the lawyer does not receive any fee.

In New York, you have up to three years from the date of the pedestrian accident to file a lawsuit, so you can make sure to find the lawyer who is best for you.  However, a lawyer is best able to serve you when hired soon after the accident. The lawyer can help you receive your No-Fault benefits and advise you on responding to the insurance company. It is also easier for an attorney to conduct an investigation into the accident the sooner after the accident that he or she begins the investigation. Therefore, you are wise to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about injuries suffered in a pedestrian accident or other motor vehicle accident, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney experienced with car accidents. I will be glad to answer your questions and assist you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.

Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney

This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.