But car accidents can take a real emotional toll too. What about all the pain you’re forced to endure? The fear you feel about getting back in your car? The emotional distress of your life suddenly being “flipped upside down”?
New York recognizes these types of non-economic damages, which are generally referred to as pain and suffering.
In fact, in a serious auto accident, the victim’s pain and suffering compensation might far exceed the total cost of their economic damages. Pain and suffering sometimes represents the bulk of a plaintiff’s financial recovery.
But what about less serious crashes? Is pain and suffering awarded after a minor car accident?
The answer to that question is complicated by some special rules that apply to personal injury claims for auto accidents in New York: the no-fault car insurance rules. Let’s walk through them together.
Minor Auto Accidents Can Certainly Cause Pain and Suffering
We want to begin by offering a general comment: so-called “minor car accidents” aren’t always so minor.
Typically, the word “minor” refers to the collision itself. A low-speed collision with minimal property damage looks like a minor accident, and so we call it that.
But did you know that bone fractures, head injuries, and serious whiplash can all occur at speeds as low as 5 miles per hour? In fact, you can end up in bad shape when your car looks just fine.
These and other injuries — any injury, for that matter — can cause physical pain and emotional distress. Those are real damages, and they deserve to be compensated. Unfortunately, the law in New York isn’t so straightforward.
New York Is a No-Fault Car Insurance State: What That Means for Pain and Suffering Awarded After a Minor Car Accident
In New York, after a car accident, anyone who has been injured must look to their own auto insurance policy for personal injury compensation — regardless of who caused the crash. Every driver in our state is required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance for this very purpose.
New York’s rule differs from that of many other states, where accident victims begin by filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance.
In our state, your own PIP insurance will reimburse you for your economic damages (up to your coverage limits). But New York’s no-fault car insurance rules do not allow you to recover pain and suffering damages under your PIP policy.
There are exceptions to the no-fault car insurance rules. For example: if your accident caused certain serious injuries, or if it involved a large commercial vehicle, you wouldn’t be limited by the no-fault rules (meaning you’d be able to file a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurance for full compensation, including pain and suffering).
But in the case of a minor car accident, where the injuries may be notable but don’t qualify as “serious,” bringing a claim for pain and suffering damages can be a challenge.
So Is Pain and Suffering Ever Awarded After a Minor Car Accident?
There are several situations in which pain and suffering may be awarded after a minor car accident in New York:
- Even though the accident itself is minor, it causes serious injuries.
- The at-fault party intentionally caused the accident.
- The at-fault party was under the influence of alcohol or drugs (depending on the circumstances).
- The accident involves a large commercial vehicle.
- The injured person was a driver or passenger in a motorcycle, ATV, or moped (depending on the circumstances).
- A third party’s negligence contributes to the accident, in which case you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against that party directly (outside the no-fault car insurance rules).
There may be other situations in which an injured person can seek pain and suffering after a minor car accident. However, in most cases, minor auto accident victims will be limited to a recovery under their own PIP insurance.
Talk to a Lawyer About Pain and Suffering After a Minor Car Accident in New York
While we have walked through some of the general rules here, the reality is that every person’s situation is different. No two auto accidents are quite alike. Your situation may involve factors and circumstances that we haven’t contemplated in this article. Details matter in personal injury law, and sometimes, a seemingly minor fact can make a big difference.
That’s why you should never make assumptions about your rights or options after any car accident. Instead, talk to an experienced attorney right away. The NYC & White Plains auto accident lawyers at Lever & Ecker, PLLC can help.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation with Our NYC & White Plains Auto Accident Lawyers Today.
Lever & Ecker, PLLC is a New York personal injury firm with years of experience in helping injured people and their families claim the financial justice they deserve. In auto accidents big and small, we work hard to help people recover the compensation they’re owed.
We understand how fundamentally an auto accident can impact every area of your life. We also understand that you might just need someone to help you understand your options. That’s what we’re here for.
Our NYC & White Plains auto accident lawyers are proud to offer a free and confidential consultation to victims of auto accidents in New York.
If you decide to hire us, we will not charge you a fee for our services unless and until we get you money. If we do succeed, our fee will be only a percentage of your recovery.
Time limits do apply to most minor auto accident claims in New York, so please don’t delay. To get started, call 914-288-9191 (in White Plains) or 212-766-5204 (in Manhattan), or simply contact us online.