Answered on Jun 30th, 2011 at 11:15 AM
To explain what your rights are under New York law you have to understand a little bit about No Fault law. Basically, No Fault says that a person involved in an accident gets their medical bills, lost wages and certain other expenses (called economic loss) paid whether or not that person caused the accident, subject to the limitations and conditions of the automobile insurance policy. In exchange for that benefit, the lawmakers took away that persons right to sue for non-economic loss (pain and suffering) unless a serious injury is sustained. The law then goes on to describe what is a serious injury. Having a serious injury is called piercing the No Fault Threshold because the injuries rise to a level severe enough to be cross an imaginary line between injuries that do not qualify and ones that meet the legal definition of serious. The car you occupy or the car that struck you if you are a pedestrian covers your economic loss. This is also referred to as PIP coverage. PIP stands for Personal Injury Protection. Basic economic loss is the minimum coverage that is required by law. There may be extra coverage carried by the responsible insurer and sometimes if you own your own insured automobile or you live in a household with someone who owns an insured automobile, then you may get extra benefits from one of those insurance policies. When people talk about suing for personal injury damages they are almost always talking only about recovering for conscious pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is non-economic loss. That is where the big money awards are made. The No Fault Law does not apply to property damages. If you have collision coverage, then your company covers you. If you do not carry collision coverage, then you can make a property damage claim against the owners and operators of the cars that caused the accident. If you settle, it will almost always be directly with the other cars insurance company, unless the other cars owners and drivers do not want to report the accident to their insurer. So, you can sue for pain and suffering if you have a serious injury. Did you break a bone? Are you disabled? Have you lost use of part of your body? Is part of your body suffering from limited use? Things like that. As for your totaled car, that is property damage and yes, you can recover for that. Clearly, the other vehicle was at fault.