Over 12 million drivers experience car crashes annually in the U.S. Of that 12 million crashes, more than one-third result in property damage. While most auto accidents are non-fatal, an alarming amount also results in injuries to drivers and passengers, including serious injuries like a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The injuries suffered vary significantly from minor fender benders to catastrophic high-speed collisions. When the damages incurred result from the other party’s careless behavior, like distracted driving, the losses carry heavy mental and emotional consequences along with high medical bills and lost wages from missed work. If you suffered losses in a car accident through no fault of your own, you have the right to seek compensation.
The statute of limitations for a car accident lawsuit is three years, and the clock begins to tick from the date of your accident. If you have questions regarding your rights and the details of your accident, you may benefit from reaching out to a car accident lawyer.
How Can You Protect Your Rights Following a Car Accident?
Unless you have experience with the litigation process following a car accident, you may not know what you can do in the immediate aftermath to protect your rights and save evidence to support your future compensation claim.
The first and most vital step is to assess yourself and your passengers for potential injuries. Then, if anyone needs emergency medical assistance, you should call 911 and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
If you can remain on the scene, an auto accident attorney would likely advise you to follow these simple steps.
- Contact the police. You should report even minor motor vehicle accidents to the police. They will conduct an investigation and file an official police report detailing their findings, including a determination of fault if possible. If little property damage exists and no one suffered an injury, you can still call the non-emergency number. However, an officer may not arrive. You can then file a report on your own at the local to ensure there is a record of the accident.
- Remain on the scene. If you know that you bear some responsibility for the accident, you may feel the natural urge to flee the scene. However, the consequences of a hit-and-run charge are likely significantly worse than the accident alone. Therefore, remain at the scene until the police arrive and avoid speaking to anyone.
- Attempt to collect evidence. An attorney for an auto accident would conduct an investigation to gather evidence supporting your claim. However, you should take photographs of any actual damages, such as damage to both vehicles and any visible injuries. In addition, you may benefit from photographing the surroundings, such as visible signage and signals.
- Collect everyone’s information. The other driver should provide their contact and insurance information. You may ask to photograph their driver’s license as well. If there are any witnesses, including other passengers, collect their names and contact information, and ask the police officers for their names and badge numbers as well.
- Notify your insurance company. In New York, your insurance should cover the damages from the accident regardless of fault. However, if the other driver acted negligently and your insurance does not cover all the damages, you would benefit from speaking with a car accident lawyer about the legal options.
Regardless of how you feel following a car accident, you should always seek medical attention. A common mistake is avoiding the doctor and missing the opportunity to document injuries in official medical records.
Additionally, some injuries may not present symptoms immediately but are still dangerous. For example, internal bleeding can be deadly but may take days to show signs.
Therefore, you and your potential lawsuit may benefit from seeing an experienced auto accident doctor right away for a thorough evaluation.
Is New York a No-Fault State?
New York is one of only 12 no-fault states. It does not matter who is responsible for your accident in a no-fault state. Your no-fault insurance covers the specific damages, including medical costs and the cost of property damage.
However, this does not immediately eliminate your potential for a car accident lawsuit. You may still reach out to an attorney for an auto accident to learn more about your legal options, depending on the details of your case.
Under New York law, any licensed driver operating a vehicle must carry no-fault insurance and a minimum amount of liability insurance.
No-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, provides the following coverage to policyholders:
- Payment for necessary medical treatments for injuries
- A death benefit if the accident results in the death of a covered individual
- Coverage of out-of-pocket expenses, such as household help, related to the injury
- Up to 80% recovery of lost income with a cap of three years
Those covered under PIP insurance include anyone driving the car at the time of the accident and any passengers in the vehicle. If the car strikes a pedestrian, they may also receive compensation under your PIP policy.
The benefit of no-fault insurance is that you have coverage even if you are at fault for the accident. However, it only covers specific damages relating to bodily injury. You would benefit from speaking to a car accident lawyer about seeking compensation for general compensatory damages, such as pain and suffering, and other specific damages, such as vehicle repair or replacement.
Serious Injury Threshold
Under certain circumstances, you may bypass no-fault insurance and file a lawsuit against the driver. To qualify, your injuries must meet the standards of New York’s serious injury threshold.
You may benefit from speaking to an auto accident attorney if:
- Your injuries left you entirely disabled for at least 90 days.
- Your injuries resulted in significant disfigurement.
- You had limited use of a body system or function due to your injuries.
- Your injuries include broken or fractured bone.
- You now have permanent limitations in using a body member or organ.
- Your loved one’s injuries resulted in death.
- You lost a fetus as a result of your injuries.
If any of these standards apply to your case, you can hold the at-fault driver responsible for all the damages, including the non-economic damages not covered by no-fault insurance. There is no definitive way to prove that your injuries meet the standards for a severe injury.
Each case is different. However, consulting with an attorney for an auto accident will help you better understand your rights to compensation.
What Are the Phases of a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Initially, a personal injury claim does not entail a trial or even a lawsuit. Most parties prefer to avoid trial and settle outside of the courtroom. Negotiations for settlement typically begin as soon as you file the claim, and at any point, you may come to an agreement on the claim’s value and settle the case.
However, when both parties cannot agree, the case may go to trial. You can better understand the process of a car accident court case by tracing the four overarching phases.
Phase 1: Pre-Litigation
The pre-litigation phase includes the steps you take following an accident, including gathering evidence and information from the scene. As the plaintiff, the burden of proving the defendant’s fault in your case falls on you and your car accident lawyer should you decide to hire legal representation.
You will gather evidence to support your claim that the defendant is at-fault for your accident and that your injuries resulted in significant damages. One critical advantage of hiring an attorney is that they will conduct an independent investigation into your accident and collect the necessary documentation to validate your claim.
Such evidence may include:
- Any photographs or videos that you collected at the scene
- The police report from the accident
- Medical records from the treatment of your injuries
- Vehicle repair estimates from auto mechanics
- Interviews with eyewitnesses
After reviewing all the documentation and creating a complete picture of your accident, including a determination of fault, your attorney begins negotiating with the insurance company. This is arguably the time when an auto accident attorney is most valuable. Personal injury lawyers have extensive experience working with insurance companies, which are well-known for their strategy to protect the company’s interests above all else.
If the insurer continues to offer an unacceptable settlement, you may move to the lawsuit phase.
Phase 2: File a Formal Lawsuit
When you hire an attorney for an auto accident, you have the added benefit of skipping all the necessary but tedious paperwork required to file a lawsuit. Your attorney will handle that for you.
Once your auto accident attorney files the official complaint, the defendant has a certain amount of time to respond before the court sets a hearing date and everyone begins the next phase in the process.
Phase 3: Discovery
Both sides share all the information obtained thus far during the discovery phase, including evidence and documentation. Your car accident lawyer will gather information through a written interrogation process where the other side answers questions, and they may initiate depositions with experts and witnesses.
Most car accident cases settle during the discovery phase, and the negotiations continue as more evidence comes to light. When you cannot reach a settlement, the next phase begins.
Phase 4: Trial
Trials can be lengthy and costly, but if you hire an attorney for an auto accident, you benefit from knowing that your lawyer began preparing for a potential trial immediately. A more complex case may result in a more extended trial.
However, the case may still settle at any point during the trial process. Even as the jury hears both sides present their cases, your auto accident attorney can continue negotiations in the background.
What Are the Damages You Can Recover After a Car Accident?
To file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation following a car accident, you or your auto accident attorney must provide proof that the collision resulted in damages. In general, more severe accidents often result in more substantial damages.
The most commonly sought-after damages in a motor vehicle accident case are compensatory damages, including economic and non-economic losses. In addition, plaintiffs may also seek punitive damages under particular circumstances.
Although, the court rarely orders an award of punitive damages in car accident claims.
Specific and General Damages
When you hire NYC car accident lawyers, one of their primary roles in your case is to collect evidence in many forms that support your claim for compensatory damages. Specific damages, also known as economic damages, refer to the tangible losses associated with the accident.
They can include:
- The costs related to repair, replacement, or diminution in value of your vehicle and any other damaged property
- The costs associated with medical treatment for your injuries, including medications, visits to in-patient or out-patient healthcare facilities, ambulance expenses, and the cost of any required medical devices
- The costs of any future medical treatment if the injuries require prolonged care
- Lost wages caused by missed work, future missed work, and loss of earning ability
Unlike specific damages, which have inherent calculability, general damages, also known as non-economic damages, are more subjective. Examples of general damages include:
- Undue pain and suffering
- Emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder
- An inability to enjoy life as you had before the accident
- Mental anguish
The process of providing evidence for general damages is often complex. A car accident lawyer may use a combination of tactics to value your claim accurately.
For example, they may interview your friends and family who can testify to a change in your quality of life since the accident. They could also use your own written statement as evidence.
Using the multiplier method, they would multiply the value of the specific damages by a number, typically between 1.5 and 5, to determine the value of general damages. A more severe case, such as a wrongful death lawsuit, may have a higher multiplier.
Damages Related to a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If you lost a loved one in a car accident as a result of someone else’s negligence, you could request compensation for damages related to your loss.
Some common damages in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Costs associated with the funeral and burial or cremation
- Lost inheritance money
- The cost of medical treatments for the deceased
- Loss of income provided by the victim
- Loss of consortium if the victim had a spouse
- Loss of companionship
- Cost of services provided by the victim, such as childcare
- Loss of parental guidance if the victim had not yet reached life expectancy
Wrongful death cases are more likely to result in an order of punitive damages than an accident that resulted in injury without death.
Punitive damages refer to a monetary determination that the court orders the defendant to pay as punishment for their behavior. These damages differ from compensatory damages because they do not replace any of the plaintiff’s actual losses.
Instead, punitive damages set a precedent for the defendant that proves similar action in the future is subject to heavy financial punishment. For the court to award punitive damages in New York, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s behavior was particularly egregious. Punitive damages are rare in car accident cases.
However, an NYC car accident lawyer can advise you about the potential for punitive damages in your case.
How Does Liability Affect Your Compensation?
There are four core components of a car accident lawsuit that require the plaintiff to prove the defendant’s liability. Those four components are:
- Duty of care. Every driver on the road has a responsibility to abide by roadway laws to protect the safety of other drivers.
- Breach of duty of care. In a car accident case, the plaintiff must prove that the other driver breached their duty of care.
- Causation. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty of care caused the injuries sustained.
- Damages. The plaintiff must prove that the injuries directly resulted in losses.
When you hire New York City car accident lawyers, their primary goal in the investigation is to find evidence to support these components of the case. However, not every car crash involves a single at-fault party.
The Rule of Comparative Fault
In New York, car accident victims may still recover compensation for losses even if they share fault for the accident. The rule of comparative fault states that the court may assign a percentage of negligence to both parties, and the plaintiff will still receive the final award minus that percentage.
In addition, new York applies the pure comparative fault rule, which states that you are still eligible for compensation as long as you are not entirely at fault for the accident.
What Can an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer in New York City Do for You?
Car accidents can leave the victim in physical, emotional, and financial devastation. If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one because another driver acted negligently, there is no need to face the burden of a lawsuit alone.
With the help of a New York car accident lawyer from Abrams & Associates, P.C., you can get the compensation you deserve and focus on healing from your car accident injuries. We can offer individualized support to give your case the attention it needs at no risk for you.
Contact us today for a free consultation.