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New York Auto Accident Lawyer Guide

On average, more than 6,000 people in New York visit the emergency room for car accident injuries every year. If you experience a car accident, you should know the laws that govern your next move. Who was at fault for the accident? How do you pay for vehicle damage and accident-related injuries?

An experienced New York car accident lawyer can guide you through the aftermath of a car crash and may help you recover financial compensation for any damages you incurred as a result of an accident. 

What Are the Common Types of Motor Vehicle Accidents?

Every car accident has differing circumstances. However, some common types of car accidents include:

  • Head-on collisions typically cause the most devastation, and negligence often plays a role.
  • Rear-end accidents can vary in severity from a minor fender-bender to a major collision. Even the mildest rear-end accident may result in injury. Whiplash is a common example of potential injury.
  • Intersection accidents commonly occur as a result of negligence. Drivers sometimes fail to follow the light signals or signs.
  • Side-impact accidents are often the result of negligence at an intersection. Running a red light may result in a side collision, often called a “T-bone” accident.
  • Highway construction accidents occur when drivers do not drive properly through construction zones or construction companies do not follow proper safety procedures.
  • Interstate accidents occur in all impact variations but are often more serious due to the high speeds that vehicles travel on the interstate.
 

Car accident lawyers deal with accidents of varying degrees of severity and understand the circumstances that surround these accidents. 

What Are the Common Causes of Car Accidents?

There is no definitive way to predict a car accident. By nature, accidents happen suddenly and unexpectedly. However, sometimes avoidable actions on the road cause car accidents:

  • Distracted driving is, as the name implies, driving while diverting attention elsewhere. Distracted driving includes talking, using a cellphone, eating or drinking, watching videos, reading, brushing hair or putting on makeup, tuning the radio, or anything that takes attention off of driving.
 
  • Reckless driving is often called aggressive driving. A car accident attorney defines the two terms differ based on which behaviors are actual crimes, even when an accident doesn’t occur. Examples of reckless driving include running red lights, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating other drivers, failing to yield, and other negligent actions that may lead to a crash. This is one of the most common causes of car accidents.
 
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol impairs motor skills and may cause delays in reaction time. It affects judgment, making impaired drivers a high risk for everyone on the road with them. Drunk or drugged driving often results in catastrophic accidents leaving a horrible impact on families.
 
  • Speeding is dangerous because it inhibits the driver’s ability to stop quickly enough to avoid a collision. A New York auto accident lawyer is familiar with this because it causes a large proportion of accidents in the state.
 
  • Inclement weather is common in New York. Weather-related accidents happen most often in states that deal with heavy rain and snow throughout the year, and New York faces snow and ice on the roads through all of the winter months.
 

During the investigation of your accident, a car accident lawyer will assess the cause of the accident and who is at fault to help determine the value of your claim.

What Are the Common Injuries Caused by Auto Accidents?

The types of injuries incurred from car accidents vary from minor to serious. Some of the most common injuries that car accident victims suffer include:

  • Lacerations and bruises
  • Broken or fractured bones, usually in the extremities
  • Sprains and strains in the foot and ankles or hands and wrists
  • Knee injuries
  • Disfiguring facial injuries 
  • Loss of limb
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Mental and emotional injuries, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Crush injuries
  • Internal injuries, which may turn very severe if left untreated for too long
  • Burns

 

A car accident attorney may also handle crashes that result in death. A loved one of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit if the accident occurred because of another driver’s negligence. 

A New York City car accident lawyer can guide you through the laws applicable to this type of personal injury lawsuit.

What Are the Insurance Requirements in New York?

In most states, the person at fault for a car accident must pay for the damages caused by the accident. However, New York requires no-fault insurance. The insurance requirements in New York directly affect how you recover payment after an accident. 

No-Fault Insurance in New York

In the event of an accident, your no-fault insurance covers your losses, including property damages, medical treatments, and other losses associated with the accident.

Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in New York covers:

  • A death benefit of $2,000 to the estate of anyone killed in the accident covered under the insurance policy, including the policyholder and any passengers from the policyholder’s household
  • Any medical bills deemed reasonable and necessary for injuries related to the accident
  • As much as $25 a day for up to a year after the accident for and injury-related expenses needed in the household, such as transportation to medical appointments and the help of medical professionals at home
  • Up to $2,000 per month for up to three years after the accident to accommodate 80% of lost wages

PIP insurance does not cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. 

Minimum Auto Insurance Coverage

All drivers must provide a minimum amount of coverage in accordance with New York car insurance requirements:

  • $50,000 of personal injury protection to cover the property and bodily damages you suffer in an accident
  • $25,000 in liability coverage to cover the bodily injury of another person when you cause an accident
  • $10,000 of liability coverage per accident for any damage to property
  • $50,000 in total to cover the bodily injury of anyone involved in an accident that you caused
  • All the same minimums in uninsured motorist coverage 
 

If you cause an accident and someone or multiple people suffer injuries, your liability insurance should cover everything. However, if you have the minimum insurance coverage, you may not have enough to cover the injuries sustained by the other driver and passengers. If that is the case, you may need to personally cover the remaining amount. In this case, you may consider hiring NYC car accident attorneys to guide you through your rights.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

Car insurance companies in New York notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when your insurance begins, ends, and lapses. If your coverage ends and you do not plan to purchase more, you must turn in your license plates to the DMV immediately.

 

If the police find you driving without proper insurance coverage you may face any one or more of several penalties:

  • Suspension of your vehicle registration in a time equal to the amount of time you were without coverage
  • Impounding of your vehicle, which requires payment of a fee and proof of insurance to recover
  • Possible arrest, especially if you caused an accident while driving without coverage
  • Payment of fines that vary based on the number of days in your insurance lapse

 

For example, if you went 1-30 days without coverage, you will face a fine of $8 per day. The fee increases to $10 per day for 31-60 days and to $12 for 61-90 days.

If you lapse for more than 90 days, it may result in the suspension of your license until the state receives payment of your fees plus a $50 reinstatement fee. If you have an accident while driving without liability coverage, you risk losing your license and vehicle registration for a full year.

What Other Laws Govern Auto Accidents in New York?

The state mandates laws that govern auto accidents in New York. All states have a mandated statute of limitations and follow the rules of comparative negligence. As a no-fault state, New York has additional requirements for anyone seeking a lawsuit against an at-fault party in an accident. 

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations sets a time limit for anyone attempting to file car accident claims or lawsuits. If you suffered an injury in a car accident and plan to file a lawsuit against the person responsible, you first want to contact a New York auto accident lawyer to find out if you are eligible.

If you are, the statute of limitations states that you have three years from the time of your accident to file whether you are seeking compensation for injuries or property damage. The sooner you reach out to a car accident attorney, the better your chances of getting all your paperwork in on time.

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is only two years from the date of death. The day that the deceased person passed is not always the same as the date of the accident. In some cases, you may file a claim for negligence and wrongful death, which would follow two different statutes of limitations. 

There are also some exceptions to the statute of limitations. For example, if the at-fault driver drove a municipal vehicle, you only have 90 days to file a lawsuit because the laws for government entities in car accident lawsuits are different. If the injured person is a minor, the countdown for the statute of limitations does not begin until the minor turns 18 years old. 

Comparative Negligence Rule

The rule of comparative negligence is important in any state, but how it applies depends on which rule the state follows. In a car accident case, the law tasks the jury with determining two important numbers: the awarded amount of compensation and the percentage of fault each party holds.

According to the comparative negligence rule, the percentage of fault you bear in a car accident represents the percentage deduction from your compensation.

 

Each state follows one of the two types of comparative negligence rules:

  1. Modified comparative negligence allows you to recover damages as long as you are found less than 50% responsible for the accident. If you are 51% or more at fault, you are no longer eligible for compensation
  2. Pure comparative negligence allows you to recover damages regardless of the percentage of fault you bear, even if it is 99%.

 

New York follows the rule of pure comparative negligence, and a New York auto accident lawyer will complete an investigation into your accident to determine fault. Your car accident attorney will negotiate for you in an effort to settle outside of the court system.

Serious Injury Threshold

Because New York is a no-fault state, you do not immediately have the right to sue for an accident caused by another driver’s negligence. According to state law, the injuries you sustained in the accident must meet a certain level of severity to qualify you for suing capability. 

 

The serious injury threshold for a car accident lawsuit in New York states that your injury must be one of the following:

  • Death
  • Permanent loss of one or more body functions, organs, systems, or members
  • Dismemberment
  • Loss of a fetus
  • A substantial limitation of a body system or function
  • Temporary injuries that limit the use of a body system, function, or organ or prevent you from completing your usual activities for at least 90 days
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Significant disfigurement

 

If you can prove that your accident caused any of these injury outcomes, you may qualify for filing a lawsuit. One of the key benefits of hiring a car accident attorney is that he or she collects evidence during an investigation to prove that your injury is sufficient to qualify you.

Some potential evidence includes medical records, medical bills, and estimations of any continued medical treatment.

What Damages Are Related to Car Accident Cases?

In any car accident, the type of damages that you may recover fall under two categories: compensatory and punitive.

The amount of compensation you could receive depends on the severity of your injuries, the manner in which the accident happened, and how egregious the behavior of the negligent driver was. 

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are the primary source of awarded compensation in a car accident lawsuit. The court designed these damages to allow the plaintiff to recover monetary compensation for what was actually lost and try to make whole the physical, financial, and psychological well-being of the injured person.

There are two types of compensatory damages:

  1. Special damages include the monetary losses associated with your injuries. These are the cost of medical treatment, the cost of future medical treatment, lost wages, future lost wages, cost of repairs for property damage, loss of earning capacity, and any other out-of-pocket expenses associated with the accident. 
  2. General damages are those losses that did not directly result in financial damage. They include pain, suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment in life, and loss of consortium.

 

Your New York auto accident lawyer can help you properly value your claim by calculating the special damages using medical bills, pay stubs, medical treatment estimates for continued treatment, pay stubs, previous tax returns to show potential future income loss and estimates from auto repair professionals who evaluated your property damage.

An experienced car accident lawyer is particularly valuable to you when trying to quantify general damages, which are subjective, making calculation more difficult. An attorney will often use precedent from other similar cases to help assign a monetary value to these damages. 

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are much rarer in personal injury cases. However, judges and juries often award them in particularly troublesome cases. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, should punish the at-fault driver for any egregious or heinous action that led to the death or injury of another person. You sometimes see an award for punitive damages in cases against large companies. 

Anyone injured by an intoxicated, reckless, or distracted driver may receive punitive damages because the court wants to set an example to deter similar behavior by the negligent driver in the future. Teaching the defendant a lesson is the purpose.

More often than not, awarded punitive damages account for the largest percentage of the compensation provided. The amount awarded in punitive damages depends on the wealth of the defendant. Therefore, wealthier defendants may pay a significantly higher number in punitive damages. 

What Should You Do After a Car Accident?

Car accidents are never expected, but they are a common occurrence. The steps you take in the immediate aftermath of an accident may have a significant impact on your case. You may find it difficult to collect yourself and do everything correctly, but that is okay.

Some important steps you should follow after an auto accident include:

 

  • Assess yourself and your passengers for injuries. If anyone suffered an injury that required immediate medical help, call for an ambulance. The health and safety of everyone involved take priority. 

 

  • Call the police.  Even if no one sustained an injury and no major property damages occurred, you should contact the police. They may not come if no one has an injury and the vehicles received nothing more than minor damage. However, you may file a report online or drive to the local station and file. 

 

  • Document absolutely everything involving the accident. Take a video of the vehicles in the places that they landed following the crash and narrated the accident as it happened. Take photos of property damage, visible injuries, and nearby road signs and signals. If you hear the other driver admit guilt, write it down. If the other driver attempts to blame you or acts aggressively, take a video of his or her behavior.

 

  • Collect everyone’s contact information. Get the name and contact information of everyone on the scene, including any witnesses. You also need the driver’s license and insurance information from the other driver. 

 

  • Seek medical attention. If you do not need emergency medical attention, you should still see a medical professional. You may schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or a specialist. You may also take yourself or have someone else take you to the emergency room to avoid a costly ambulance ride. 

 

  • Contact a New York auto accident lawyer. A car accident attorney can assess your situation right away and guide you through your next steps. 

 

The information you gather is vital to your personal injury case. If you see a doctor, you have medical records to back up your injury claims, and the sooner you do that, the better. If you wait too long to see a doctor, an insurance adjuster may claim that your injuries could be the result of another incident.

If you call the police right away, they conduct an investigation of the scene and take down important information that your attorney may use to help prove your claim. Your primary concern is your health, and your attorney will guide you through the rest.

Why Should You Hire a New York Auto Accident Lawyer? 

The legal process that governs a car accident lawsuit is complex. You have the right to represent yourself in a lawsuit, but that may prove more difficult than you think. Additionally, facing a legal process while trying to physically and mentally recover from a devastating accident is often too overwhelming. 

Advantages of Having Legal Representation

Some advantages provided by car accident attorneys:

  • They offer guidance through the legal process and can explain your rights.
  • They provide a professional and objective presence during an emotionally charged time. 
  • They help you avoid making costly mistakes that may delay or hurt your case.
  • They conduct an investigation into your accident and sometimes use experts to help collect sufficient evidence.
  • They often work on contingency, which means that they only get paid when you get paid. 
  • They have the experience in negotiation to help you receive swift and fair compensation.
  • They handle the insurance companies for you so that you can focus on healing rather than arguing.

 

If you or a loved one suffered an injury in a car accident due to the negligence of another, you can find an auto accident lawyer at Elliot Ifraimoff & Associates, P.C. with experience and a willingness to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.