In an article in the Journal News on January 16, 2014 entitled “Victims face pain when drivers flee”, a number of injured parties were interviewed after being in a hit and run accident.
A 24 year old, Joyce Lipscomb was struck and thrown by a car. The driver of the car got out of her car and told witnesses she hadn’t seen Lipscomb before striking her and she drove away leaving the 24 year old with a fractured skull and permanent brain damage. She had to learn how to walk and talk again. In 2011, 4432 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents. One in five of these victims were a victim of a hit and run accident according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In New York, felony charges such as leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident must be filed within 5 years of the incident to keep with the 5 year Statute of Limitations.
This article will discuss the victims’ rights for compensation of a hit and run victim. In New York, if a pedestrian is hit by a car, the cars no-fault insurance pays all medical bills. Obviously, if the car leaves the scene, there is no insurance company to pay the medical bills. The victim has 2 choices. If the victim owned or lives with a relative who owns a car, then they can have their medical bills paid by no-fault on their own automobile policy per New York Law. The basic no-fault policy pays $50,000 worth of medical bills and lost wages. If the victim owns their own car, they can also recover for their pain and suffering from the uninsured motorist provision of their auto policy. By New York Law, the minimum uninsured coverage is $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident. However, (and you should check your policy now) the coverage could be as high as their liability coverage of $100,000. If you (and most insurance companies do not advertise this) increase the minimum $25,000/50,000 coverage up to their liability coverage, i.e. here $100,000.
If the car that left the scene came in contact with you or your car, a claim can be brought under your own auto policy for pain and suffering up to $100,000 instead of $25,000. Thus, if you are protecting strangers up to $100,000 coverage, why shouldn’t you protect yourself from uninsured motor vehicles or vehicles that leave the scene of the accident up to $100,000? The cost of this increase in coverage is minimal, as compared to having minimal coverage of $25,000. Naturally, if your liability coverage is $500,000 or $1,000,000, you can protect yourself by purchasing underinsurance, uninsured up to your liability coverage.
The biggest problem arises when the victim does not own their own vehicle nor lives with anyone who owns a motor vehicle. In these cases, there is no no-fault to pay the medical bills and there is no uninsured motorist protection from their own car. These victims suffering devastating injuries are left with tremendous medical bills (if they don’t have medical coverage) as well as life altering injuries that they will not be compensated for.
In New York State, there is an entity created by the State called M.V.A.I.C. (Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation). This entity will provide through difficult legal maneuvering, limited coverage for pain and suffering up to $25,000. MVAIC will cover your medical payments (no-fault) up to $50,000. Thus, the hit and run victim will at least get all or part of their medical bills paid for. Unfortunately, the process of applying for MVAIC is complicated and requires an attorney. Further, the claim must be reported within 90 days of the accident. (Most people do not even know of MVAIC nor do they know who to go to to apply for coverage.
The victim must file an Intention to File a Claim within 90 days. They will then get no-fault forms to fill out and pay their medical bills. However, if they desire to be compensated up to $25,000 for pain and suffering, they must have an attorney to do a motion in the Supreme Court to permit them to proceed against MVAIC. The Court must give permission before you can start a lawsuit for pain and suffering against MVAIC. Once the Supreme Court gives permission to sue MVAIC, then a regular law suit can be started. However, the minimum coverage for pain and suffering will be limited to $25,000 (even if you have sustained a traumatic brain injury or loss of limbs). Once a lawsuit has been started, depositions will be held, physicals of the injured party will be held and if MVAIC doesn’t offer their policy, a jury trial will take place. Obviously, the attorneys don’t like these cases as the ultimate recovery cannot be more than $25,000 and thus, a limited attorney fee of $8,333.33. It is time for the NY Legislature to increase these limited numbers for hit and run victims under MVAIC.
Lipscomb continues to live with permanent disabilities according to the article. She is now 49 yrs. old and she still has limited movement on the right side of her body, uses a walker and relies on help from home aides several time a week, is unable to work and receive social security disability and Medicare. Had the vehicle owner that left her on the street came forward, at least this victim could have been compensated for her injuries.
If you, or someone you know, have been involved in a hit and run motor vehicle accident, we request that you contact our office so that we can help take you through all of the necessary steps required to file a claim/lawsuit with MVAIC, if necessary. You can reach us at (914) 288-0800. We look forward to helping you through this difficult time and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed in the process.