A horrific accident involving nine teenagers occurred at approximately 5:00 A.M. on Wednesday, June 30, 2010, in Steuben County, New York (near Corning). Aside from highlighting the dangers associated with underage drinking and teen drivers, the accident raises several critical insurance coverage issues that every parent should understand.
According to the Elmira Star Gazette (full article pasted below, nine teens were injured in a one car accident in the Town of Hornellsville following an underage drinking party.
The parents of the nine injured teens are facing — or surely will face — tough questions with respect to how or if their children will be compensated as the teens begin the long road to recovery.
In general, parents of children injured in one-car motor vehicle accidents involving multiple passenger need to be aware of the following insurance coverage information:
1. BASIC NO-FAULT COVERAGE — New York State Insurance Law requires every driver to provide at least $50,000 of Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) to each passenger of his vehicle regardless of whether he caused the accident or not. This type of insurance is generally referred to as “No Fault Insurance” because it is triggered even if the driver was not at fault.
What does this mean? Every passenger in a vehicle is entitled to $50,000 of PIP coverage under the driver’s insurance policy in the event the passenger is injured in an accident. In general, PIP covers economic losses such as lost wages and medical bills.
Why is this important? Here, assuming the driver had proper insurance coverage, all nine teens (the driver is entitled to PIP benefits as well) are likely entitled to receive up to $50,000 to compensate them for their economic loss. In addition, a passenger may be able to collect No Fault PIP benefits under his own policy once PIP iunder teh driver’s policy is exhausted. This is called “stacking” PIP coverage, and it often allows a passenger to receive up to $100,000 to cover economic loss.
2. ADDITIONAL NO-FAULT COVERAGE — Residents of New York are also free to purchase additional No Fault coverage in the event they or members of their families are seriously injured in an accident and their economic losses exceed $50,000. The two primary types of additional coverage are called Additional Personal Injury Protection (“APIP”) and Optional Basic Economic Loss Coverage (“OBEL”).
What does this mean? If you or a family member are seriously injured in an accident and your economic loss — again, I am primarily talking about lost wages and medical benefits — exceed the available PIP coverage ($50,000), APIP and OBEL can be triggered to cover your excess expenses. In addition, as a passenger you may be able to collect against the driver’s APIP and/or OBEL coverage, depending on how the policy is written.
Why is this important? According to the Star Gazette article, at least three of the teens suffered serious injuries and were helicoptered to Strong Memorial Hospital. A helicopter ride alone generally costs around $2,500, and it is safe to assume the medical bills for these teens could approach $50,000 very quickly.
The passengers first need to determine whether the driver had APIP or OBEL coverage. If so, it is possible the passengers could be compensated for additional economic loss under the driver’s policy, depending on how it was written.
Next, if the teens’ parents have APIP or OBEL coverage, the teens will likely be considered “Resident Relatives” and will meet the standard to be named an “eligible injured person” under their parents’ polices. (Important tip — MAKE SURE YOU HAVE APIP AND OBEL NO FAULT COVERAGE. At Ziff we are willing to review your insurance policy FOR FREE. Just stop in or email us a copy of your policy to [email protected])
3. LIABILITY COVERAGE— In addition to no-fault coverage, New York State Insurance Law requires all drivers to carry at least $25,000/$50,000 liability coverage. What does this mean? It means every driver on the road in New York is required to provide at least $25,000 of coverage to any one injured person for non-economic loss(things like pain and suffering, serious disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life) because of his negligence. If more than one person is injured, the total maximum recovery is limited to $50,000 regardless of whether two people are hurt or whether 20 people are hurt. If there are more than two people hurt, those people would have to split the $50,000 “pie”.
Of course, drivers are permitted to carry — and, in my opinion, SHOULD carry — much higher liability coverage. Why is this important? In an accident such as this — where I am Continue reading