No matter how diligent we are, accidents can happen. An experienced car accident lawyer will explain that you can be personally liable if the other party’s injuries are serious enough and if neither party’s insurance policy will fully cover the other party’s damages.
How do I Know if I May Be Liable?
Both New York and New Jersey operate using a no-fault car insurance system. This means that many injured car accident victims receive financial compensation for their damages exclusively from their own insurance. However, if the other party sustained serious enough injuries or their medical bills exceeded a certain amount, then it is possible that you would be personally liable.
Suppose you are carrying sufficient insurance to cover all damages sustained by the other party. In that case, your insurance company will defend any claim or lawsuit filed against you. However, if your insurance doesn’t cover the other party’s damages, you could be personally liable for the difference. If you were uninsured at the time of the crash, then you could be personally liable for all of the other party’s damages.
What is a “Serious Injury?”
You may be sued for your negligence that caused a crash if the following criteria are met:
- The medical costs and other economic damages sustained by the other party surpass the mandatory $50,000 (in New York) or $15,000 (in New Jersey) no-fault insurance policy.
- Neither driver carries sufficient insurance under New York or New Jersey’s minimum insurance requirements.
- The other party incurred a personal injury that is defined as a serious injury according to New York Insurance Law Section 5104 (a), (b) (New Jersey’s law is similar).
Types of serious injuries:
- Significant disfigurement
- Loss of a fetus
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system
- Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- Medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature. However, it prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days– immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
What if both Drivers Were Partially Responsible for the Crash?
New York and New Jersey differ in terms of how each state approaches comparative negligence. New York is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that you can collect damages against the other driver in a crash, even if you were primarily responsible for the accident. In New Jersey, though, a driver injured in a car crash cannot collect damages from the other driver if the first driver was more than 50 percent at fault.
In some accidents, it is very clear that only one driver caused the crash. However, in many others, liability is disputed and complex. For example, if you were involved in an accident in New Jersey, you can only be personally liable if you were at least 50 percent responsible for the crash.
Car Accidents Can Be Complex
Determining whether or not you may be personally liable in a car accident can be complex. And if you are facing the possibility of being personally liable in an automobile crash, there are plenty of defenses that may be employed on your behalf. Additionally, even if you were negligent in causing the crash, that does not mean that the other driver was not also equally as negligent, if not more so.
At Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, we advise that you consult with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. During this meeting, we’ll help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the best steps to take moving forward.
Contact our team of car accident lawyers for a free consultation
Since launching in 1975, we have recovered millions in settlements and jury verdicts for our injured clients. If you face the possibility of being personally liable, we fully understand the uncertainty, confusion, and fear that may be permeating your life right now. We take pride in going the extra mile to fight for justice for our clients.
If you have questions about being personally liable in a car accident, call Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman today to arrange a zero-cost consultation. We never send our clients a bill unless they win their case.