Are You Always at Fault if You Rear-End Someone?

It is a widely held belief that you are at fault if you rear-end someone in a motor vehicle accident. However, when it comes to rear-end accidents in New York, the question of who is at fault is not so black and white. Due to New York’s no-fault laws, it may seem that the driver of the vehicle that is rear-ended will not be held liable for damages, but this isn’t always the case.

Learn about no-fault laws and how the no-fault thresholds affect a rear-end accident, how PIP coverage protects you in the event of a serious car accident, and why working with an auto accident attorney helps you with your case.

New York’s No-Fault Law

The first thing to know about who is at fault in a rear-end accident is that New York is a no-fault state. This means that no matter who caused the accident, each driver receives compensation for their injuries through their own coverage.

Typically, you are not allowed to sue the other driver for medical expenses and lost wages like you would in a tort state, even if they rear-ended your car. The main benefit of the no-fault law is that because insurance companies don’t have to haggle over who is responsible for what, you receive compensation for medical expenses more quickly. This coverage comes in the form of Personal Injury Protection, or PIP insurance.

PIP Insurance

All drivers in no-fault states are required to purchase PIP insurance. PIP is a first-party type of coverage. This means that it covers the person named on the policy instead of a third party, like the driver of another car. If you are a passenger in the vehicle during a rear-end collision, your injuries may be covered through the driver’s PIP insurance. Generally, PIP covers the following expenses after an auto accident:

It does not cover pain and suffering damages.

It is important to note that PIP only covers medical expenses. Vehicle damages are based on who is at fault in the rear-end accident and are paid by the collision coverage of the at-fault driver. Also, you can be denied PIP benefits if you were involved in an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The No-Fault Threshold Exception

An exception to the no-fault collision laws in New York is the no-fault threshold. This exception allows you to sue the at-fault driver for damages incurred in an accident. To pursue this option, you must meet the general threshold and serious injury threshold requirements set forth by New York Insurance Law 5102. These requirements include:

The no-fault threshold exists so that if your expenses exceed the amounts covered by PIP, you can still receive compensation for your injuries from the at-fault party’s insurance. Not only does the threshold cover economic costs, but it also includes emotional damages like pain and suffering.

Compensation for Vehicle Damage

PIP will not cover damage to your vehicle. It is for “personal injury protection” only. Unlike with injury claims, drivers should collect compensation from the at-fault driver for property damage.

In most cases, the driver who rear-ends someone will be considered at fault, but there are some cases where the driver with the damage to the rear of their car is primarily or partially at fault.

One way is by asking, “who struck who?” If a driver is stopped at a traffic signal and backs up into a car behind them, they could be considered at fault.

If a driver suddenly stops in the middle of a street with no traffic signal causing them to do so, they could also be considered partially at fault, even if you may still be considered also partially at fault as well for not keeping enough following distance to react in time.

But because New York is also a comparative fault state, you can still get compensation from the other driver’s insurance for your vehicle damage as long as you are not 100% at fault, although your compensation will be reduced by your degree of fault.

Seeking Legal Counsel for Compensation

To protect your rights and take appropriate legal recourse after a rear-end accident, your best course of action is to speak with New York auto accident attorneys immediately following the collision.

An experienced lawyer can explain the complexities of New York no-fault laws and determine if you meet the threshold exception. Working with knowledgeable legal counsel allows you to focus on recovery while they protect your legal interests in the case.

Contact Catalano Law for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one was involved in an auto accident involving a rear-end collision, call the experienced auto accident attorneys with Catalano Law in Syracuse, NY today. During your free consultation, Peter Catalano and his team will review your case and advise you on how best to proceed.

Peter Catalano has been fighting for victim’s rights for two decades. His team of lawyers has experience in auto accident and personal injury claims and will work to get you the compensation you deserve.

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