Most New Yorkers know that the city and even the suburbs can be a crazy place to drive. What most New Yorkers probably don’t realize, however, is the number of New York auto accidents that involve personal injury.
According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, there were 314,974 auto accidents in the state of New York in 2009, 1,060 of which were fatal with 1,148 drivers killed. Males account for 56.3% of victims and females 37.8% (5.8% are unknown). Nassau County and Suffolk County have the highest percentage of New York auto accidents. More New York accidents occur on Friday than any other day of the week.
When you consider that 186,034 persons were injured in New York auto accidents, the statistics for New York personal injuries can be alarming. New York automobile accident claims are so common; there are more of them than all other types of personal injury claims put together.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about New York’s auto injury laws and personal injury laws. Although New York enacted a No Fault statute in an attempt to control the amount of automobile crash lawsuits, there are still many ambiguous issues to New York’s personal injury laws. This lack of clarity makes hiring a New York personal injury lawyer essential.
1: The New York personal injury laws can be ambiguous
To file an auto accident claim in New York, there are two main issues – liability and damages. Liability is simply who was at fault, whereas damages involve the amount of loss. The injured person must show that another party was negligent in the operation of their motor vehicle. Negligence is generally defined as a “failure to use reasonable care”.
New York has a threshold for damages incurred from an automobile accident. According to that statute, Article 51 of the Insurance Law says car crash victims have to show they have a “serious injury” before they can get any money for pain and suffering. In New York, a “serious injury” means a personal injury which results in one of the following:
3. Significant dismemberment
4. A fracture
5. Loss of a fetus
6. Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system|
7. Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member
8. Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
9. A medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person`s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
Some of these conditions for “serious injury” are airtight, but others are vague. For example, what is a “significant disfigurement?” Is this a scar or burn? If you break the cartilage in your nose is that considered a fracture? The standard for what is a serious injury by New York auto accident law is fairly complicated. There are several categories of serious injury in New York personal injury cases. That is why when injured in a car accident in New York, you should consult with a New York personal injury attorney who is experienced in handling automobile accident claims.
Additionally, even liability can be tricky. You cannot assume that the driver who rear ended you is liable. For instance, if you were hit by a bus driver, is the manufacturer of the bus liable? Were there some defects or safety violations? Did inadequate road conditions come into play?
2: Personal injury lawyers do this for a living
Unfortunately, when you are involved in a New York automobile accident and have sustained an injury, it can be a very traumatic time physically, emotionally and economically. Chances are you may be in a fragile state and lack the expertise you need regarding New York auto accident laws. As simple as it sounds, New York personal injury lawyers handle auto accident cases all the time, and they know how to cut through the red tape. A New York personal injury attorney knows all the loopholes in the New York personal injury system, the legal complexities of New York auto accident laws, and essentially how best to win your personal injury case. He/she will know how to establish in court that the automobile accident has taken place due to the irresponsible behavior of a third party.
Your New York personal injury attorney will get the depositions well in advance, interview witnesses, take crime scene photos, obtain the police reports and secure what is known in New York as MV104s. MV104s contain the initial statements of both the injured parties and drivers immediately after the accident.
3: Most New York personal injury accidents are settled out of court
Actually, 95% of personal injury accident cases never make it to court which is another reason to get a good personal injury attorney. He/she will make sure that you do not settle for an amount that is less than what you rightfully deserve. Intimately familiar with New York personal injury laws, your New York auto accident attorney will know if your case is worth pursuing or not and will have the legal skills to negotiate with insurance companies or the other party involved.
A New York personal injury attorney can be objective if a settlement in a New York court is being discussed. Remember, the other party wants you to get as low a settlement as possible. Since most personal injury attorney’s fees come from the amount of the settlement, they will make sure you get the highest amount possible. Also, they will make sure you get your New York auto injury settlement as soon as possible without having to wait months or even years.
Representing yourself in a New York personal injury case is like sending a lamb to slaughter. You want to make sure someone is on your side, fighting for you ever inch of the way.
4: New York personal injury lawyers only get paid if you get paid
One of the most common misconceptions in New York auto injury cases is that personal injury lawyers are all money grubbing sharks with preposterous fees. This is NOT true for reputable, experienced New York auto accident lawyers. Most New York personal injury attorneys adopt the “No Settlement, No Fee” concept, meaning if you receive no compensation, they receive no compensation. Conversely, if you win the case, your New York personal injury lawyer gets a percentage of the money you earn.
The question is not: Can I afford a personal injury attorney to get just compensation for medical damages, lost wages and pain and suffering? The question is really: Can I afford NOT to have a well qualified, reputable personal injury lawyer?
5: New York personal injury attorneys know the time limitations to file certain documents or you lose your benefits
It is true that if you have been involved in a New York car accident that you have three years to bring a lawsuit to recover damages. However, this is NOT true if the vehicle that hit you is government owned. In this case, you have to comply with “Notice of Claim” requirements which mean filing a document within 90 days with the appropriate government agency.
If you have been involved in a New York auto accident, you should file a claim immediately with the “at fault” party’s insurance. But what if you were taken by ambulance to the hospital and weren’t able to get their insurance information? This is where a New York personal injury lawyer is essential – his firm can file all the necessary claims and supporting documentation with insurance carriers, including all no fault applications. An experienced New York auto or car injury attorney can hire an investigator to interview the driver or check the Department of Motor Vehicle records and obtain the police report that should contain the insurance information.
There are other reasons to contact a New York personal injury lawyer quickly. What if you have been hit by an uninsured motorist? Do you know that you need to fill out special paperwork with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation – an agency set up to protect people who are involved in accidents with uninsured drivers?
Hopefully I have presented enough evidence to indicate that New York personal injury law is complex and something you should not try to navigate on your own. Although we New Yorkers are generally a rugged bunch used to battling adversity, you do not want to tackle your own New York auto accident claim. Dealing with insurance adjustors, auto repair shops and dealers, rental car companies and others can become overwhelming in many situations. If your injuries require doctor visits, diagnostic tests, and surgery or ongoing treatment, this is a good indication you may be able to recover compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering. Don’t shortchange yourself — understand your New York auto accident rights and get a qualified New York personal injury lawyer that will help you deal with your injuries or loss.