Running a red light can result in more than just a fender bender. Depending on the accident logistics, both the driver and the victim can experience everything from broken bones and neck issues to brain injuries and even paralysis.
And, unfortunately, at the time of impact, it’s too late to ensure that either the driver or the victim has adequate insurance coverage.
While liability coverage for bodily injury — which covers the injuries of the accident victim — is mandatory in the State of New York, drivers are only required to have a coverage limit of $25,000. Liability coverage also protects a driver if he or she causes an accident and injuries someone. And according to Cellino Law managing attorney Gregory Pajak, that coverage limit is woefully inadequate.
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“Most people have no idea how much liability insurance they even have,” said Pajak. “They just assume when they tell their insurance agent, ‘I want full coverage,’ that they are covered for everything. Unless you have specified a higher amount with your agent when purchasing the insurance plan, you often have the state’s minimum amount.”
Seriously injured individuals can quickly rack up expenses for hospital stays, physical therapy and rehab, medication, surgery and emergency treatment. In addition, more severe injuries will often require future medical payments and expenses. Individuals commonly incur other unforeseeable setbacks from an accident, such as the potential of lost wages due to the injury and pain and suffering. The cost for these expenses can easily exceed the $25,000 minimum in coverage.
To cover such damages, Pajak recommends individuals carry a minimum of $300,000 in liability protection, which he said does not add too much more in one’s monthly insurance premium payment.
“While there is an increase in cost, it’s not as much as you would expect, especially when the endgame is that you are providing sufficient coverage that protects not only the victim but also yourself,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking when you have an individual who thinks their catastrophic injuries are covered by the car insurance of the person who caused the accident, only to find out they are eligible for just $25,000 in compensation.”
“A lot of people when hearing this then say, ‘I’ll just sue the driver and go after his home and money,’” Pajak said. “But it doesn’t work that way. Because a personal injury judgement is considered an unsecured debt in the State of New York, pursuing a driver for more than the insurance coverage is typically not a viable option; drivers can just declare bankruptcy to avoid payment. Bankruptcy is only not an option if the person has substantial assets.”
In addition to liability insurance, Pajak recommends drivers protect themselves with Supplementary Uninsured Motorist coverage, which adds extra protection for individuals that extends compensation beyond the other driver’s limits, especially if it turns out that driver is either underinsured or uninsured.
Immediately after an accident occurs, Pajak recommends calling the police to file an accident report, which serves as an official record of what transpired. It’s also essential to get immediate medical attention for any health needs, whether that involves calling a doctor for an appointment or visiting an emergency room.
Cellino Law, which has served the Buffalo area for more than 60 years, provides a risk-free — and cost-free — initial consultation to all injury victims. You only pay the lawyer if you receive a settlement or award.
For more information, call 800-555-5555 or visit cellinolaw.com.
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