This article provides an in-depth look at car insurance laws and requirements in New York, including an explanation of New York's "no-fault" car insurance system and the car insurance coverage minimums in the state. (Note: You'll find more information on the legal rules related to auto accidents in New York in our companion article Car Accident Laws in New York.)
New York is one of around a dozen states that follow a "no-fault" system when it comes to compensation for car accident injuries. In a no-fault state, a driver who has been injured in an accident (and anyone else covered under the policy) turns to his or her own no-fault (or "personal injury protection") coverage regardless of who was at fault for the accident.
"Serious Injury" Threshold
In order to step outside of the no-fault system and bring a third-party car insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit over a car accident in New York, you must qualify under the "serious injury" threshold in place in the state. That means you've experienced any of the following because of the car accident:
If your injuries qualify under this definition, you can hold the at-fault driver responsible for the accident, and you can pursue compensation for all categories of losses, including pain and suffering and other non-economic damages (which aren't available in a no-fault claim).
Keep in mind that the no-fault rules only apply to car accident injuries; if you have incurred vehicle damage as a result of the accident, you're always free to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver for those costs.
For more information on no-fault systems, see No-Fault Car Insurance and State Laws: The Basics.
New York requires any operator of a motor vehicle to maintain certain types (and amounts) of insurance on that vehicle:
Note: While these are the minimum amounts of coverage required under New York law, you can carry a policy with higher coverage limits. If you are found liable for an accident where other drivers'/passengers' losses exceed the limits of your car insurance policy, you may find yourself on the hook to make up the difference out of your own assets.
New York requires that all automobile policies include uninsured motorist coverage (at a minimum of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident). And "Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists" (SUM) coverage can also be purchased, up to the bodily injury liability limits of the policy. New York law requires insurers to offer SUM limits of $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident if a policyholder has liability limits at that amount or higher.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage come into play if you are injured by a motorist who either has no car insurance at all or whose coverage isn't enough to pay your medical costs and other damages associated with the accident. For more information, see Uninsured Motorist Coverage: The Basics and Underinsured Motorist Coverage: How It Works.
For more information on New York's motor vehicle insurance requirements straight from the government, see the N.Y. Department of Motor Vehicles' New York Auto Insurance FAQs.