Traffic laws and safety regulations are in place to protect drivers on New York roadways. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the rules like they should. It only takes one careless action from another driver to put the lives of you and your family at risk.
When you or a loved one is hurt in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, you should talk to an attorney as soon as you can. You may have the ability to pursue damages from the responsible party, helping you pay for your medical bills and the lost work that often comes after a car accident. A successful case will not erase the damage, but it can give you the money you need to move on with your life.
I have helped numerous clients through the complicated process of a car accident lawsuit. I know what it takes to make individuals, businesses and insurance companies take responsibility for what happened – getting my clients the compensation they deserve. Contact me for a free discussion of your case now.
Understand Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities
After a car accident, you have many things to take care of: car repairs, no-fault application–not to mention securing needed medical treatment and recovering from your injury. Are you entitled to disability benefits or even Workers’ Compensation?
There comes a point in time when the seriously injured may realize that they need help with their case.
Many attorneys believe that you should call them as soon as you are involved in an accident. In some cases, this is a good idea. However, most people are not ready to speak with an attorney right away.
If you have been injured in a car accident and believe that it is time for you to learn about your rights and responsibilities, we would be happy to speak with you.
Causes of Car Accidents
Car accidents are a common occurrence on the roads of Upstate New York. Some causes include:
No matter how severe the penalties for drunk driving, some people continue to get on the road after drinking too much – putting everyone else at risk in the process. Beyond the possible criminal charges the responsible party faces, you can also pursue your own damages in the event of an accident.
If you have been hit by a drunk driver the first thing you should do is contact the authorities so that emergency help and police can be dispatched. The drunk driver should be questioned and apprehended if over the legal limit. Many people who have been injured due to the fault of a drunk driver are under the mistaken impression that this automatically entitles them to recovery for pain and suffering. In reality, the victim of a drunken-driving accident still needs to prove the elements of a negligence claim. Those elements include fault, causality, and qualifying injury.
If you are struck a drunk driver it is usually relatively easy to prove that the accident was the fault of the drunk driver.
The second element is called proximate cause. Proximate cause means that it can be proven that the injuries sustained were the specific result of the car accident. If the injury victim has had prior injuries involving the same body part proximate cause may be called into question.
The element of a “qualifying injury” pertains to the severity of the injury sustained. Even if you can show that a drunk driver’s negligence caused an injury to you, you must still meet the “serious injury” threshold which will allow a personal injury action to be brought. Section 5102 of the New York State Insurance Law defines which types of injuries will qualify as “serious”. These include but are not limited to death, dismemberment, fracture, or permanent loss of a body organ, member, or system. The definition includes several other types of injuries that will qualify including one that prevents a person from performing their usual and customary daily activities for at least 90 of the first 180 days following the crash.
Distracted driving plagues the roadways today, leading to numerous unnecessary accidents. If your accident was the result of another person texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving or surfing the internet on a smartphone, you can pursue damages based on their carelessness while behind the wheel. Distracted drivers are likely to cause rear end collisions, side swipe cars or cyclists, and run red lights. Distracted driving has proven to be extremely dangerous.
Lack of sleep can make a sober driver every bit as dangerous as a drunk driver. Drowsy driving is especially common among people who drive for a living, like truck drivers. If you are hit by a driver on the job, I can help determine if he or she is responsible for what happened, or if it is the company’s fault. It may be both. I will go after all responsible parties in your accident.
Running Stop Signs or Traffic Lights
Some people make the mistake of thinking they can beat a signal to stop. Whether they do this from arrogance, because they fail to see the signal or because they think no one is coming, running stop signs and traffic lights is incredibly dangerous.
Failure to Yield
Drivers are supposed to recognize yield signs and right of way and act accordingly, yet many fail to do so. If someone hits you after failing to yield in such a situation, you can pursue damages.
Speed limit signs are prominently displayed to indicate the legally mandated speed on the road. When someone fails to observe the law and hurts you in the process, you have the option of pursuing a lawsuit against the responsible party.
Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents involve two heavy machines, often traveling at high speeds. The damage that results when one automobile hits another is no surprise. Some of the common injuries that follow a car accident include:
- Brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue injuries
Even when a car accident does not result in any obvious injuries, you may discover symptoms later that are a result of the accident. This is why it is so important to see a doctor immediately following your accident. A doctor can document the results of the accident both right after it happens, and as time goes on. All of this documentation can prove useful in your auto accident case.
What To Do Following A Car Accident
Your first step after an auto accident should be to seek medical attention. Following your visit to the doctor, you should seek out the advice of an experienced attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can listen to your story and determine what your next steps should be to protect your legal rights.
An attorney has the ability to investigate the circumstances of the accident to help determine who was at fault in the accident. Fault is the key to a successful case. If we can prove that the other party behaved carelessly or recklessly, or was responsible for your injuries in any way, then we can get the court to decide in our favor.
Property Damage Claims
A property damage claim is used to report property damage to the insurance company of the driver at fault in an accident. A property damage claim can be filed if your vehicle, home, mailbox, or other property are hit by another vehicle and damage results.
All drivers are required to carry liability insurance; this insurance carrier is responsible for paying for damages the at-fault driver causes to the property of others. The driver at fault will not be responsible to pay a deductible before liability insurance covers other drivers’ or property owners’ losses, but will have to pay their deductible in order to repair damage to their own vehicle resulting from the same accident.
Insurance companies perform their own due diligence to make sure the driver insured by them is indeed at fault before they pay property damage claims, which can slow the process. You can expect to wait a couple of weeks or longer before receiving payment for your losses. Fortunately, if you were not at fault in the accident and the other driver’s insurance covers your property damage, your insurance rates will not increase as a result of the claim.
Be Careful What Insurance Documents You Sign
When the dust settles after a motor vehicle accident many insurance companies will attempt to offer a quick settlement to the injured party. This is because the full extent of an injury is usually not known until a complete medical work-up has been performed and enough time has elapse to determine a proper diagnosis.
If you are asked to complete paperwork or sign forms provided by the insurance company, be very careful. If you are not sure what you are signing or what the documents means, you can always contact an attorney.
The one form that you should never sign unless you have consulted with an attorney and fully understand your legal rights is called a General Release. A General Release is a form the insurance company will want you to sign releasing them from any and all further liability resulting from the negligence of their insured. Once the form is signed the insurance carrier will be free from further claims of liability.
Giving Recorded Statements To The Insurance Company
After a motor vehicle accident, it is quite common for insurance adjusters to request recorded statements from the parties involved. A very common question asked by accident victims is whether or not they should give a recorded statement to the adjuster. My advice is a resounding “No”; at least not before you have spoken with an attorney regarding the specific facts and circumstances surrounding your motor vehicle accident.
You are under no legal obligation to provide a recorded or written statement to an insurance company after your accident.
Insurance adjusters often say that failure to give such a statement will delay in the processing of your claim. However, that is simply a ploy for them to try to get information from you that may allow them to disclaim coverage or at least further delay payment of your claim. Claim adjusters are skilled professionals who may craft questions in such a way to elicit the desired response from you. They may be able to use your innocent words against you or twist them to fit their desired legal defenses.
When asked by an adjuster to give a recorded or written statement we recommend that you politely decline and contact an accident lawyer to discuss your case and secure advice.
Albany Car Accident Statistics
In New York, the state’s Department of Health gathers information and statistics related to car accidents and fatalities in the state. According to the agency, an average of three people in the state die every day due to some type of motor vehicle accident or crash. This costs, according to figures from 2018, $1.1 billion each year in emergency department charges.
For Albany County, a report entitled the Medical Consequences of Motor Vehicle Crashes for 2014 indicates the following:
- About 6,369 people between the age of 25 and 44 were involved in a car accident, accounting for 31 percent of all accident victims. This resulted in 671 trips to the emergency room.
- Men are more likely to be involved in a car accident than women in Albany. With 9,927 men being involved in accidents that year.
- Of these, about 86 percent of individuals suffered some type of traumatic brain injury.
The agency reports that, in Albany, motor vehicle accidents were the third leading cause of death among citizens. They resulted in $17.7 million worth of hospitalizations as well as emergency room charges in 2014. Additionally, every month, there is an average of:
- Two people dying as a result of a motor vehicle accident in the state
- 13 people are sent to the hospital
- 156 people suffered an accident and received help in the emergency room
These results are from 2014. This is the most up to date information provided by the agency at the time of this writing.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, please contact me now. I offer free consultations to help you determine your next steps. Put my knowledge and experience to work for you and your case.
Other Types of Accidents
Car Accident Lawsuits: Litigation Costs For The Plaintiff
In a personal injury matter, such as a car accident case, a contingency fee agreement is customary. This type of fee agreement provides that a certain percentage of the settlement proceeds, usually 1/3, are payable to the attorney as a fee for legal work in the case. The trade off is that if there is no settlement or monies owed than the attorney simply does not get paid.
With a contingency fee arrangement, so long as the attorney agrees to continue to prosecute the case, he or she is usually liable for litigation costs. These costs include but are not limited to:
- Fees and charges for medical or other records
- Deposition transcript costs
- Expert witness fess
In certain cases these costs can be substantial running into the ten of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in very complex matters.
There are exceptions to the general rule that the law firm will pay the litigation expenses up front. These exceptions generally apply, as the case progresses, the firm is not confident that a particular case is not strong. In such circumstances, it may be incumbent upon the plaintiff to front the litigation expenses if they wish to proceed with the case.
Each case is different but litigation expenses can be substantial.
How Long Does A Car Accident Case Take?
The length of time it takes to secure a recovery or jury verdict in a car accident case depends on many factors. There is no set time frame requiring that a case be completed after a certain period of time has elapsed. The statute of limitations for a negligence action in New York State is 3 years from the date of the accident. However, that 3-year time frame does not require that the case be finalized. Instead it simply requires that a summons and complaint be properly served so that the action has begun within the 3-year time frame.
There are several factors that determine how long your case could take to resolve. First, the defendant’s insurance carrier and, most specifically, the person handling the case for the insurance company is a huge factor which determines how long your case may take. Certain insurance companies and adjusters can be unreasonable in negotiating settlements. In fact, some insurance companies rarely settle cases and send everything to their attorneys for litigation. Other insurance companies are more prone to properly evaluate a case and offer a reasonable settlement in a timely fashion.
The types of injuries involved in your case also play a roll in determining how long your claim will take to resolve. A case involving lingering injuries with multiple surgeries is usually not resolved until treatment has been completed, or at least, the condition is stabilized.
Other injuries requiring a minor surgery with a short recovery time are often amendable to a faster resolution.
The circumstances surrounding how the injury occurred also dictate how much litigation may be involved. If there is clear-cut liability or fault, the case may be easier to finalize. However, if there is a legitimate question as to who is at fault then it is unlikely that settlement will occur without more extensive negotiating and litigation.
No lawyer can give a specific time frame in which a case will be finalized. However, a general time frame can usually be arrived at after a complete case evaluation and medical record reviews are performed.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents
As personal injury attornies that handle many cases having to do with car and other motor vehicle accidents, we’re often asked many different questions about how things should be handled. Hopefully, the following will help address some of the most common questions about how to handle a situation when you’ve been involved in a car accident.
How Do I Get A Copy Of A Police Accident Report?
Accident reports will become available at different times. If the report was filed electronically by a police officer, you should be able to get it within 14 days or so. A paper police report will be available after 30 days and a report filed by a citizen will only ba available after 60 days.
You can get a report online by going through the following steps”
- Go to the DMV accident report retrieval page
- First, run a free report search to make sure the DMV has your report available
- Run a $7 paid search to to get results for the exact report(s) you want
- Order the report(s) you want – $15 each
You will have 7 calendar days to download a PDF copy of the report from the DMV’s order page. If you do not download the report within that time, you’ll need to go through the entire process again.
I Have The Information From The At-Fault Driver. Do I File A Claim With Their Insurance Company?
The quick answer is no. If you’re involved in a car accident you should file a claim with your own auto insurance company (and speak to an auto accident attorney) and they will determine where to go from there.
What I Feel I Need Medical Attention After A Few Days?
There are many types of injuries that can be sustained in a car accident that will not show symptoms until days later or perhaps even weeks. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible and let your attorney know what is going on as well. If doctors can prove you received injured in the crash, they will become part of your case.
Can I Still Make A Claim Even If I’m Partially At Fault?
Yes, you can. New York uses what is called comparative negligence. This means that a percentage of fault will be assigned to each person involved in the accident and those percentages will be used to determine any awards won from the case.
Do I Really Need To Speak To A Lawyer Even If I Don’t Feel It Was Serious?.
A consultation is free and confidential. At the very least you should make sure you know all of your rights. What doesn’t seem like much right now could turn into a huge legal mess within a couple of weeks. You don’t want to end up in this position on your own. If you’ve been in a car accident, you should speak with a qualified New York accident lawyer. Call (866) 868-2960 or contact us online to set up an appointment.