Motor vehicle accidents in Geneva, New York, and the surrounding areas of Ontario County, can teach us a lot of about New York car-accident law. Here’s an example: The Geneva, New York Finger Lakes Times reports today that two people were injured in an accident at Payne and Shortsville roads Monday. Scott Briggs of Canandaigua stopped at a stop sign at Payne Road, but then proceeded through the intersection without yielding to a vehicle heading on Shortsville Road through the intersection. Shortsville Road traffic is not controlled by a stop sign. The driver of that other vehicle, Caroline Conrad of Shortsville, had the right of way since she had no stop sign. She and her passenger, Shirley Wagner of Shortsville were taken to FF Thompson Hospital where they were treated for only “minor injuries”.
Now here is a fact that might surprise you: Even though Briggs was totally at fault for this accident, and even though Conrad was totally innocent, Conrad probably has no legal claim at all against Briggs. Why not? The answer lies in the type of injuries Conrad is said to have sustained, that is, “MINOR INJURIES”. Under New York State car accident law, known as the “no-fault” law, also known as “New York Insurance Law 5102”, Conrad and her passenger can’t sue Briggs or claim damages from him or his insurance company unless they have suffered a “SERIOUS INJURY” as defined by the law.
So will Conrad and her passenger get no compensation at all? Well, it’s not quite that bad. Conrad’s no-fault insurance will automatically pay for hers and her passenger’s medical expenses and lost wages up to a limit of $50,000 each. But what about pain and suffering compensation for Conrad and her passenger, who were, after all, the innocent victims of Briggs’ negligence? None! You have no right to claim any pain and suffering compensation unless you have sustained a “SERIOUS INJURY”.
So what IS this “SERIOUS INJURY” I keep talking about? A “serious injury” is defined by the no-fault law as consisting of at least one of the following: death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent and significant or consequential limitation or loss of use of part of your body (such as neck, back, arm) or a non-permanent injury that prevents the injured victim from “performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities” for at least 90 out of the first 180 days after the accident.
Unless Conrad or her passenger can prove one of those types of injuries, they will be relegated to receiving ONLY their “no-fault benefits” (lost wages and medical benefits paid for by Conrad’s no-fault insurance) and will NOT be able to claim pain and suffering compensation, or any other compensation for that matter, from Briggs or Briggs’ insurance.
And that, in a nut shell, is the New York State no-fault law.