Something to Think About the Next Time You Take a New York Taxi

Over 13,000 licensed taxicabs can be found serving New York City's five boroughs on any given day. This number does not include other unlicensed taxicabs that also operate in the area. It is little wonder that with the high volume of vehicle, passenger and bicycle traffic in the city that taxis must navigate each day why an average of 11 taxi accidents are reported each day.

Unfortunately, those involved in taxi accidents are often left with expensive medical bills, long hospital stays and extensive injuries requiring significant periods of rehabilitation. In a recent example, this August a tourist's leg was severed below the knee when she was run over by a taxi while standing on a sidewalk. The taxi had jumped the sidewalk curb to chase after a bicycle messenger after an alleged altercation. Due to the accident, the tourist also received extensive nerve damage and cuts.

Limited Recovery

Unfortunately for the tourist and others involved in taxi accidents, the amount that may be recovered from the taxi's insurance company will likely be inadequate to pay for needed medical care. Under New York law, medical bills resulting from taxi accidents are paid through the same no fault system as car accidents. Under this system, basic expenses such as medical bills and loss of wages are covered regardless of who is responsible for the accident. Unfortunately, the majority of taxicabs only carry the $50,000 minimum of no fault coverage that the law requires.

In addition to no fault coverage, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission requires all licensed taxis and car services to carry liability insurance coverage, which can pay for additional expenses for serious injuries such as pain and suffering, rehabilitation expenses and additional medical bills. Although this sounds good, in reality, the minimum amount of liability coverage required by the commission is so low that it would not even begin to cover the pain and suffering associated with the vast majority of cases.

The commission requires licensed taxis and car services to carry a 100,000/$300,000 liability policy (unlicensed taxis only have to carry a minimum $25,000/$50,000 policy). In layman's terms, this means that there is only $100,000 worth of coverage available if one person is injured and $300,000 if more than one person is injured (i.e. all parties injured share the $300,000). Considering that serious injuries can result in damages costing millions of dollars, it is clear to see that the liability coverage is often inadequate to fully compensate the injured parties.

As though low liability coverage were not enough for those injured in taxi accidents, it can also be difficult to recover under the liability insurance policy. Unlike the $50,000 no fault portion, injured parties have to prove that the driver of the insured taxi was at fault in order to collect under the liability policy. As a result, it is often only after a long litigation process that an injured party can recover anything.

Protect Yourself

Although it may seem that you are risking your financial well being every time you take a cab or cross the street in New York City, there is an inexpensive way to protect yourself. New York residents have the option to purchase an excess uninsured/underinsured motorist automobile policy - even if you do not own a car. This policy can provide additional coverage that kicks in once the limits of the taxi's policy have been exhausted. You should ask your insurance broker for this excess coverage to be added to your auto policy, or ask for a personal umbrella policy that includes such coverage if you do not own an automobile. It is generally inexpensive coverage and it will ensure that you will be compensated in the event you are injured as a pedestrian or as a passenger in a taxi or other vehicle.

If you are injured in a taxi accident or as a pedestrian, the potentially complex liability issues involved make it especially important to have the advice and representation of a skilled personal injury attorney. An attorney can work to ensure that your claim is resolved swiftly and that you receive the full compensation due to you under the law.