Every year, over 6 million car accidents occur in the United States. Three million victims have been injured. Car accidents can cause property damage and fatalities, and they can place an undue financial burden on the injured who are not at fault. If you were recently involved in a car accident in New York, car accident lawyers can assist you in recovering the damages you deserve.
New York Car Accident Laws
As you think about your legal options, consider the laws that affect car accident claims. In New York, there are three major components: the statute of limitations, the pure comparative fault rule, and no-fault insurance. Let’s break down each of them.
Statute of Limitations
The “statute of limitations” is a legal phrase that applies to most laws and places a time limit on the opportunity to file a lawsuit. In New York, you have three years from the time of the crash to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries or property damage caused by the collision.
If someone died during an auto accident and a representative wants to file a case on behalf of the deceased, they have two years from the date of the person’s death to do so. This is called a wrongful death lawsuit, another type of personal injury case.
Pure Comparative Fault Rule
It is not always easy to determine who is at fault in a car accident. The outcome of a lawsuit is almost always predictable if the responsible party is easily identifiable. For example, if the other driver in your accident is entirely to blame, his or her insurance company must compensate you for any financial consequences, such as medical bills and lost wages. The case will never go to trial because an auto accident lawyer will negotiate a settlement on your behalf.
In cases where the responsible party is not so easily determined, there are several possible outcomes. If both parties share in the responsibility for the crash, the cost of damages is shared between the two. Under New York’s “pure comparative fault” rule, you, the plaintiff, will pay for a percentage of the damages equal to the percentage of fault you hold for the accident. A New York auto accident lawyer will help you understand how your amount of responsibility is quantified.
States that use “comparative fault” in car accident personal injury cases do not award the plaintiff anyno compensation if he or she is found more than 50 percent responsible for an accident. Under New York’s “pure comparative fault,” however, you are entitled to compensation even if a jury determines that you carry more fault for the accident than the defendant.
No-Fault Insurance in New York
New York is also one of several states that require no-fault car insurance. Under a no-fault policy, the injured driver must request compensation from their own insurer for all financial losses caused by the accident. To bypass no-fault car insurance and pursue a case against the other driver, your injury must be serious.
serious injuries include:
- A full disability that lasts for a minimum of 90 days
- Serious impairment to a body system or function
- Fractured bones
- Permanent impairment of an organ or body part
- Loss of a fetus due to the accident
Through a personal injury lawsuit, you can request compensation for all economic damages, which includes medical bills, loss of wages, cost of future lost wages, cost of property damage, and even non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
What to Do After a Car Accident
This step-by-step guide helps to clarify the best possible way to handle the outcome of a crash. If you missed any of these steps, do not worry. A New York car accident lawyer can help you collect everything you need to build your case.
Step 1: Check for Injuries
After a car crash, the first thing you do is to check on everyone. Assess yourself for injuries first, and if you are well enough to move around, check your passengers for injuries as well. If anyone is hurt, call for medical assistance or ask someone nearby to call for you.
Step 2: Move to a Safe Place
If your vehicle is blocking a high-traffic area, move it to the shoulder of the road and out of danger. If it is too damaged to drive, just stand far away from danger.
Step 3: Call the Police
Car accident attorneys will tell you to contact the police, even if the accident is very minor. New York state law does not require you to call the police if no one is injured, but you are allowed. If you know that you are not at fault for the accident, a report helps your case. The responding officers fill out an accident report that documents the scene and list the potential at-fault party. If police are not able to come to the scene, you can go to the nearest station and file a report.
Step 4: Exchange Information
Exchange important information with the other drivers. This includes:
- Name, address, and phone number
- Driver’s license information
- License plate number
- Vehicle description, including make, model, and color
Avoid talking to the other drivers or anyone about the facts of the accident.
Step 5: Document Everything
Document everything that you can see around you. Anything you document can be used to build your car accident case. Take photos or videos of the vehicles and surrounding area. If it is safe to do so, take photos and videos of the vehicles immediately after the impact and before they are moved, to document the position of the cars and the resulting property damage to both vehicles. You can share these with your attorney and the insurance agency.
Write down the names of everyone involved, including passengers and potential witnesses. Identify the officers. You can collect their names and badge numbers. Then ask for a copy of the police report. The insurer may ask for it.
Step 6: See a Doctor
See a doctor as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. Motor vehicle accidents are known to cause a rush of adrenaline that can suppress pain receptors for up to a few days. Internal injuries can cause permanent damage in car accident victims if left untreated.
Common car accident injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Soft tissue injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Herniated discs
- Spinal injuries
- Bruises and lacerations
- Broken bones, Injuries to your joints
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Chest injures
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Whiplash is common even in minor accidents. Your auto accident lawyer knows that seeing a doctor immediately after an accident is crucial to both your health and your case. Whether you wait to see your primary care physician or go to the emergency room, having medical records that document your injuries helps when filing your claim, if you wait too long, the insurance adjuster and the defendant’s attorneys could claim that you sustained them some other way.
Step 7: Notify Your Insurance and Contact NYC Car Accident Attorneys
Call your insurance provider to report the accident and start the claims process. Then contact an attorney while the accident details are still fresh in your mind. Personal injury lawsuits can be cumbersome and take longer than you might expect. The sooner you get started, the closer you are to compensation.
Potential Damages From a New York City Car Accident
If you suffered a serious injury in a car accident, New York law permits you to seek compensatory damages for your losses. Compensatory damages are divided into special and general damages.
Special damages are easy to calculate because they have a direct monetary value. They include:
- Loss of income and loss of future income
- Cost of current and anticipated medical treatments
- Property damage
- Any out-of-pocket costs incurred as a result of the accident
To prove the loss of future wages and the cost of future medical treatment, you need wage projections and a medical plan from your doctor detailing your follow-up treatment plans.
General damages are non-economic. They have no monetary value and are more difficult to recover. Examples include pain and suffering, disfigurement, lost opportunity, inability to enjoy life, scarring, and disability. Your auto accident lawyer can help you value general damages.
Punitive damages are a third type of damage. They are rarely associated with car accident lawsuits. In theory, compensatory damages make the victim whole again. Punitive damages are a punishment meant to deter others from committing the same wrong. The responsible party must do something horribly egregious for the plaintiff to receive punitive damages.
Benefits of Hiring an Auto Accident Lawyer
Sometimes accident victims assume they can handle the process of filing an insurance claim and even a car accident lawsuit. However, hiring an auto accident attorney comes with many benefits. The process of filing a lawsuit is tedious and complex. You will appreciate the help of a professional.
Understands the Legal Process
A New York auto accident lawyer understands both the procedures and laws associated with personal injury cases and the specifics of state car accident law. An attorney can catch small details that you would likely miss, such as special exceptions to the statute of limitations. Your lawyer knows the documentation needed to file your lawsuit and has the ability to file on your behalf. Having a professional there to guide you through the legal process is an invaluable asset, particularly if you are suffering from an injury.
Investigate Your Accident
Even with a police report, you need an attorney to investigate your accident. Evidence is a vital source in negotiations, and your insurance company requires ample amounts of it. If your claim goes to trial, you want as much evidence as possible.
An auto accident attorney has resources that you cannot access, including relationships with experts and specialists that can evaluate the accident from angles that you and even the police missed.
Examples of evidence that your attorney uses include:
- Your initial meeting with the lawyer, detailing the accident as you remember it
- Video surveillance
- Statements from the other driver
- Computer data from your vehicle, if available
- Eyewitness testimony
- Police reports and citations
- Expert testimony
Your attorney’s job is to ensure that you recover all the compensation you deserve to make you comfortable. Evidence collected in the investigation is a significant means to that end.
Know the Value of Your Claim
Without professional guidance, you have no way of knowing if you are overestimating or underestimating the amount of compensation you should receive. Insurance companies benefit from misleading you into believing that your claim is valued drastically lower than its worth.
An experienced car accident lawyer helps you calculate the value of your claim with accuracy and knows who is liable in your case. Sometimes more than one party is at fault, and you could file a claim for financial compensation against each one. No one can guarantee you specific results in your case, but an attorney increases your chances of winning by a tremendous amount.
An auto accident lawyer also knows how to calculate your damages.
For example, he or she will:
- Consider the seriousness of your injuries
- Calculate the potential impact your injuries could have on your future, including costs associated with your treatment plan
- Consider how much a jury would award you in order to determine the right settlement amount
- Quantify your pain and suffering to add it to your damages
Personal injury attorneys deal with medical professionals daily. They can access experts to help calculate your physical and emotional injuries.
Help Now, Pay Later
Most auto accident lawyers work on a contingency. In this arrangement, you pay nothing for legal services until you recover compensation for your accident. This means you have all the benefits of legal representation without any other added financial stress. You also have the comfort of knowing that your attorney accepted your case because he or she had confidence that you would receive a substantial settlement.
Deal With the Insurance Companies for You
Undoubtedly, the most beneficial aspect of hiring an attorney for a motor vehicle accident case is that you do not have to deal with the insurance adjusters. Insurance companies are infamous for working against you when you try to collect on a claim. The adjuster often acts in the best interest of the company and will even use “bad faith tactics” to avoid paying.
Common bad faith tactics are:
- Making unreasonable demands to keep you drowning in paperwork
- Not responding to your attempts to reach them, which is illegal in most states
- Changing your policy terms after you file a claim, which is also illegal
- Delaying the investigation of your accident
- Delaying payment of your claim
- Underpaying your claim
Insurers know that lawyers recognize these tactics right away. As a result, they are far less likely to play such games with your attorney than they are with you.
Get Compensated Faster
Faster compensation is a side effect of a legal expert’s experience with every stage of the process. If you get through each stage more quickly because you have an experienced attorney helping you, you get to your money sooner than you would on your own.
Excellent Negotiation Skills
A crucial element of an auto accident attorney’s skills is the ability to negotiate. The primary goal in car accident cases is to get the compensation you deserve as quickly as possible. Very few auto accident cases make it to the trial stage. Most cases are resolved through settlement. Your lawyer will be able to get the best possible settlement result through persistent and aggressive negotiations.
Your attorney knows when the insurance adjuster offers you an unfair settlement. This is when knowing how to push back is a valuable asset. A lawyer also knows when you should settle before you hit a point of diminishing returns, which means that you begin wasting more time than a bigger settlement is worth.
Meeting With an Attorney
Once you decide to reach out to an attorney, there are a few things you can expect from your first, in-person meeting. Your attorney wants to understand your case as thoroughly as possible.
He or she will ask you many questions, including:
- Do you have health or vehicle insurance?
- Have you spoken with anyone from your insurance agency yet? If you did, please explain the details of the conversation.
- Have you spoken to anyone else about the car accident, including the other party or parties involved?
- Were any witnesses present, including any passengers in your vehicle?
- Were there any photos, videos or surveillance footage from the accident?
Attorneys pull answers to their questions from your medical documents, police reports, the insurance company’s investigation, photographs or videos, and auto repair receipts or estimates.
It is important to remember that you must disclose everything you know to your attorney. Even details that you might find embarrassing could benefit your case, and your attorney is not interested in passing judgment. Remember that you have an attorney-client privilege. Any details you share with an auto accident lawyer have protection under that oath.
We understand the difficulty surrounding recovering from auto accidents, and our attorneys are here to help you through it and get the compensation you need. If you sustained an injury from an auto accident in New York, contact the law firm of Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates today for a FREE consultation. We serve clients in all of the five boroughs of NYC, Long Island, and beyond. We have over two decades of experience in auto accident litigation under New York law, and we want to use it to help you get the fair compensation you deserve.