Navigating the New York Legal System
Hiring an attorney for a serious car accident case is typically a necessity based on what the accident victims face. Severe injuries leave the victim suffering and unable to work. Many are hospitalized, have gone through a surgery or several surgeries and are taking months to recover. Aside from the excruciating pain and strong desire to feel normal again, the person may be wondering, “How can I afford being off work or how can I pay the mounting medical costs?”
In New York, a serious injury caused by a car accident enables the victim to sue for damages. New York insurance law outlines specific requirements that define the “serious injury threshold” for car accidents. When your injury meets this threshold, you will need a lawyer.
Why You Need a Lawyer if You Meet the Serious Injury Threshold
Substantial monetary amounts are at stake. If another driver was at fault for the accident, you can expect their insurance company to do everything it can to pay as little as possible. Their insurance adjuster may call you and appear to be very interested and compassionate. However, the information you provide will become part of their lawyers’ legal strategy to settle quickly, pay as little as possible and safeguard the insurance company’s bottom line.
The at fault driver will have a team of insurance lawyers working diligently to prove the driver either was not at fault or that the driver’s percentage of fault for causing the accident was minimal. They would like to prove that your injuries are not as serious as you claim or that your actions contributed to the accident more than they actually did.
They are advocates for the defendant, not for you. What you need is an experienced attorney who can advocate on your behalf and argue your side of the case.
Let Your Lawyer Gather the Facts and Prepare Your Case
Aside from the fact you do not have in-depth knowledge of how the legal system works, if you are seriously injured, you are in no shape to gather case information anyway. About all you can do is follow your doctor’s orders, deal with the pain and suffering, struggle with the tasks of daily living and try to recover.
If your attorney has years of experience handling accident cases, he will have valuable knowledge and skill when dealing with insurance companies. He knows what a fair settlement offer should look like. He also knows to have you wait until your doctor says you have met maximum medical improvement. By doing so, he can arrive at realistic and adequate monetary amounts to recover compensation for damages.
Personal injury lawyers take car accident cases based on contingency, which means the lawyer receives no fee unless he wins or settles your case.
If you are seriously injured in a car crash, an attorney can help you protect your rights. There is no charge for an initial consultation. During the consultation, the lawyer will evaluate your accident and discuss the prospects of pursuing a case.
The Worst Time for Teen Accidents Is When School Is Out
Teenage driving has the highest accident rate of any age group, and teen accidents are the nation’s leading cause of death for teenagers. Teenage drivers are youth between the ages of 16 to 19.
Teenage Driving Statistics
Teenage drivers are three times more at risk for dying in a vehicle crash than drivers who are 20 or older.
According the (CDC) Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, six teenagers died every day due to motor vehicle crashes. A total of 2,433 teens were killed. Teenagers represented 6.5 percent of the population in 2016, but the expenses they accumulated for vehicle crashes were 8.4 percent of the national total.
It stands to reason that during the summer, when warmer weather arrives and more people are on the road, so are teenagers. When school is out, teens have more free time and drive more often.
What Are Biggest Risks?
Male teens are twice as likely as females to die in a vehicle crash. When teens ride with a teenage driver and are unsupervised, the crash risk increases. In fact, the risk is proportionate to the number of teens in the car. The more teen passengers there are, the greater the risk.
New drivers who have just gotten their licenses are the most at risk of all. Also, younger teens at the age of 16 or 17 are at greater risk for a fatal crash than teens at the ages of 18 and 19.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Teenage Driver? Read More
If you are injured in a crash that involved a teenage driver, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. There is no cost for the initial consultation, and there are no out of pocket expenses. If the attorney recovers compensation on your behalf, the fee is a percentage of the recovery.
Statistics Tell the Story of Why Texting While Driving Causes Accidents
Forty-eight states (all except Missouri and Montana) have banned texting while driving for all drivers. Missouri bans it for drivers 21 years or younger.
(Reference: National Conference of State Legislatures)
Facts About Texting While Driving
The following statistics and facts were determined for the years 2012 through 2018:
- Of all fatal crashes across the nation, 9 percent involved texting while driving.
- It takes approximately 5 seconds to answer a text. When driving 55 miles per hour, 5 seconds is the time it takes to travel 100 yards, the size of a football field.
- Cell phone use resulted in 4,637 deaths caused by car crashes in 2018.
- The risk of causing a car accident due to texting while driving is 6 times greater than due to drunk driving.
- Using a cell phone while driving (hands-free and hand-held) reduces driver reaction time by as much as a blood alcohol content of .08%.
GPS Devices Also Result in Dangerous Driving Behavior
Using a GPS device is a similar behavior to texting while driving and also causes accidents.
(Reference: The National Highway Traffic Safety Association, the National Safety Council, and The Zebra internal reports)
What Does Texting While Driving Mean from a Legal Perspective?
If your injuries fall under the serious injury threshold or exceed damages of $50,000 (link to previous blog), you can pursue a lawsuit based on the other driver’s negligence. Your personal injury lawyer must prove the other party had fault in causing the car accident. Texting while driving is against the law and points to negligence. Furthermore, statistics show the dangers involved with texting and provide strong evidence in a car accident case. When assigning fault for the accident, the court is likely to assign a large percentage of fault (if not all) to the driver who was texting.
If you have suffered a serious injury and believe the other driver texted while driving, you should discuss the accident with a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer can explain your rights to recover compensation for damages.
How Does Establishing Fault Affect a Car Accident Case?
New York has no-fault automobile insurance. Regardless of who was at fault for causing an accident, insurance covers expenses up to $50,000 (or more, if the no-fault coverage purchased has limits greater than $50,000).
However, what happens when an injury is extremely serious or when costs exceed $50,000 insurance limits? When this occurs, you can sue an at-fault party for damages through a lawsuit.
Serious Injury Threshold in a Car Accident Under NY Insurance Law
Article 51 of the New York Insurance Law defines what constitutes a serious injury in car accident cases.
Any one of the following is considered a serious injury:
- Significant disfigurement
- Loss of a fetus
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system
- Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- 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 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
What If You Were Partly at Fault in Causing the Accident?
During the case, a judge or jury assigns both parties a percentage of fault for causing the accident. If the other party was not 100% at fault for the accident, can you still bring a lawsuit? In New York, the answer is “yes.”
Pure comparative negligence law is the basis for personal injury cases in New York. Under this law, your percentage of fault in causing the accident reduces your recovery amount by that percentage. For example, if your damages were $100,000 and you were 50% at fault, the most you could recover would be $50,000. Even if you were 99% at fault you could still recover damages, but in this instance, you could only recover $1,000.
In a car accident case, your attorney must prove the other party had some percentage of fault in order to recover compensation for damages.
If you have questions about your car accident and recovering damages, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The initial consultation is free, and you owe nothing unless the attorney recovers compensation on your behalf.