Every year in New York state, an average of 292 deaths, 6,207 hospitalizations, and 106,612 emergency department visits occur because of car accidents. Any type of auto accident is upsetting, but it is even more devastating when the cause is the other driver’s negligence.
The results are often costly. Since New York is a no-fault state, you turn to your insurance after an accident for payment of your medical bills and lost wages.
However, serious car accident injuries may warrant a lawsuit to recover more than just economic damages. If you suffered a severe injury or lost a loved one in a car accident due to another party’s negligence, you would benefit from contacting a car accident lawyer to learn more about your rights to compensation.
How Can You Protect Your Rights After a Car Accident?
When a severe car accident results in injuries requiring emergency medical attention, there is little you can do besides waiting for the ambulance to arrive. However, if you are able, there are three steps you can take to gather information and protect your rights.
1. Get Help and Contact Police
The first thing you do after a motor vehicle accident is assess yourself and your passengers for injuries. If anyone requires immediate medical attention, call right away. Even if you think you’re OK, you should still seek medical attention from your physician or a doctor just to be certain you do not have any internal injuries. You may have injuries with latent symptoms, and documenting your symptoms can help prove those injuries.
Next, you contact the police. When officers arrive, they will conduct an investigation and file a police report containing all of their findings. If they determine who was at fault, they will include that information. You can request a copy of the report for your car accident claims.
2. Document Everything
So much happens in the immediate aftermath of motor vehicle accidents that it is often difficult to remember everything later when the shock wears off. Use your phone to take photos and videos and collect information from everyone on the scene.
Some things you should document include:
- Damage to the vehicles
- Any visible injuries on your body
- The surrounding area, including any signs, signals, or buildings
- The other driver’s name, contact information, insurance card, license plate and driver’s license
- Names and contact information from any eyewitnesses
- Name and badge numbers of any police officers on the scene
The easiest way to document is by taking a video. If you are physically able, you can capture the scene, talk to witnesses, and narrate what happened in the moments before, during, and after the accident. This is all valuable information that a New York auto accident attorney can use to develop your car accident case.
3. Contact NYC Car Accident Attorneys
After the collision, you can contact a car accident attorney. You may have questions and need answers right away.
An attorney from a reputable personal injury law firm like Sattler Law Group can offer advice as quickly as a phone call, and it only takes a simple case evaluation to determine if you have a valid claim. Additionally, you can provide information while it is still fresh in your mind.
When Can You Sue in a No-Fault State?
New York requires all licensed drivers who intend to operate a vehicle to carry no-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection (PIP). When an accident occurs, both parties file claims with their own insurance to receive compensation for medical bills and lost wages resulting from bodily injury.
The goal of PIP insurance is to eliminate the need to sue for compensation, but this insurance has limitations. For example, it does not cover property or non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. Therefore, New York law allows car accident victims to sue for damages in cases that meet the threshold for serious injury set by statute. If you have questions about your right to sue for serious injuries, you should contact a New York car accident lawyer.
What is the Minimum Insurance Coverage in New York?
The state has a minimum requirement for coverage. It includes:
- $50,000 in medical coverage per person
- $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person
- $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident
- $10,000 in property damage liability per accident
- $50,000 per accident and $25,000 per person in underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage
Drivers who choose to purchase only the minimum amount of coverage often face issues of capping out insurance before covering all their financial losses. However, if their injuries meet the state-mandated threshold for serious injury, they may sue the responsible party for damages incurred.
What Is the Threshold for Serious Injury?
PIP insurance is typically not enough to cover damages caused by severe injuries in auto accidents. Hence, the state allows you to sue if your injuries fall under New York’s definition of a serious injury.
The definition includes:
- An nonpermanent injury causing temporary disability for a minimum of 90 days within the first 180 days after an accident
- Injuries resulting in dismemberment, disfigurement, or death
- A permanent injury resulting in the lost function of an organ, system or member
- Broken or fractured bones
- Loss of a fetus
A car accident lawyer can help you understand the limitations of your PIP insurance and explain your right to sue if you suffered an injury. Additionally, if you were riding a motorcycle at the time of the accident, PIP insurance does not apply. In that case, you should speak with a New York car accident attorney about filing a lawsuit or third-party claim immediately.
What New York Car Accident Laws Can Affect Your Lawsuit?
Once you file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you should understand the two prevailing state laws governing car accident cases: the statute of limitations and the comparative negligence rule. A New York car accident lawyers have extensive knowledge of these laws and can assess the details of your accident to see how they apply to your case.
Does Your Case Fall Within the Statute of Limitations?
Every state sets a statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits. This law mandates a deadline for filing a lawsuit against the other driver. New York allows three years from the day of the accident to take legal action seeking compensation for your losses in a personal injury lawsuit. Additionally, you have the same amount of time to file if you only seek payment for the repair or replacement of property.
Are You Partially Responsible for the Accident?
Liability is a critical element of a car accident lawsuit. As the plaintiff, your responsibility is to prove that the defendant owed you and other drivers a duty of care on the road and that they breached that duty of care, leading to an accident. In many cases, the defense’s response to a claim includes an allegation that you bear at least partial responsibility.
If you think you share some responsibility for your accident, do not assume that you cannot recover compensation for damages. A car accident lawyer will investigate the details of your crash for evidence of fault, and even if you are partially responsible, you can still receive an award.
The law that governs shared fault in a car accident in New York is the pure comparative negligence rule. If you share responsibility, this rule affects your case in a few ways:
- The court or jury will evaluate your case and assign a percentage of fault to both parties.
- The court or jury assigns a value to the damages, which is the award.
- The amount of the compensation your receive represents the award minus your percentage of fault.
For example, if the court determines you are 50% at fault and values the damages at $100,000, you will only receive $50,000. Additionally, because New York follows the pure comparative negligence rule, you are still eligible for compensation even if your portion of responsibility is higher than the defendant’s portion.
For example, suppose your percentage of fault is 99%, you can still receive $1,000 of the $100,000 award. Although, experienced car accident lawyers in New York will tell you that 99% responsibility is rare.
When Should You Consider Hiring a Car Accident Attorney?
Unless your accident is minor, resulting in minimal injuries and property damages, you would likely benefit from reaching out to a New York City auto accident attorney.
Some specific reasons you might consider an attorney are:
- Your accident resulted in extensive property damage and severe injury.
- Your PIP insurance does not cover the entirety of your medical bills.
- Your bills pile up, and you cannot return to work.
- Your injuries resulted in temporary or permanent disability, making it impossible for you to do the job you did before the accident.
- You attempted to file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance and received pushback.
Insurance companies are known for their attempts to avoid paying high-value claims. At times they even resort to bad faith to avoid payouts. They may delay communication or drag out the investigation beyond the statute of limitations to make it impossible for you to file a lawsuit. If you experience any of these issues, reach out to a car accident lawyer in New York to learn more about your legal options.
What if You Lost a Loved One in a Car Accident?
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you might have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit if the at-fault driver acted negligently. In New York, you must be the administrator or the executor of the deceased’s estate also known as a personal representative to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, that person is a family member.
What Damages Can You Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?
The compensatory damages in any personal injury lawsuit include economic losses such as the cost of medical treatment, lost wages, and property damage. You may also claim non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and mental anguish. A New York auto accident attorney will investigate your case to collect evidence supporting your claim for damages.
A wrongful death case has additional damages. While each case is different, some expected losses in a wrongful death case include:
- The cost of funeral and burial or cremation expenses
- The cost of medical care provided before death
- The pain and suffering the deceased person suffered before passing
- The wages lost accumulated during the time between the person’s injury and death
- The allotment of benefits and financial support the deceased provided to dependants and family members
- The loss of inheritance
- The loss of consortium experienced by the spouse of the deceased
- The loss of a fetus if the deceased was pregnant
The statute of limitations on a wrongful death case is two years from the date of the victim’s death. If you have a potential wrongful death claim, you should contact an attorney about your case.
What Are the Advantages of Contacting a New York City Car Accident Attorney?
Before you decide to pursue a lawsuit without the help of a car accident lawyer in New York, consider the benefits of hiring an NYC car accident lawyer. For example, most personal injury attorneys work on contingency, which means that you pay no upfront fees to retain their services.
They get paid only if they secure an award or settlement for you. They deal with the insurance company and prepare legal paperwork for your personal injury claim. They also offer support and guidance during a time of physical and emotional difficulty.
Because of New York’s no-fault insurance laws, many people are unaware of the circumstances giving them the right to sue after a car accident. Negligent drivers should face the consequences for their actions, and the injured deserve compensation for their losses.
If you suffered a severe injury or lost a loved one in an auto accident due to someone else’s careless choices, an experienced car accident lawyer at Sattler Law Group is available to answer any questions you have about your case.
When your physical, mental, and financial health is at risk, you cannot afford to take chances. We are here to fight for your rights and will stop at nothing to get you the compensation.
If you suffered injury after a motor vehicle accident, contact Sattler Law Group P.C. today for a free case review.