How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Most of us get in our cars every day – or nearly every day. We probably do it without much thought: driving is simply a way of life. But no matter how safe of a driver you may be, you cannot control how others on the road with you drive.
If you are hurt in an automobile accident, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries. Through this type of claim, you can recover financial compensation for all of your losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A skilled New York car accident attorney can help you with the process.
At the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, we have more than 40 years of experience representing car accident victims throughout New York, including the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. Our personal injury attorneys will work hard to help you get maximum compensation for your claim. To schedule a free initial consultation, give our law firm a call.
Our New York personal injury lawyers will investigate your case and determine the best course of action to maximize your recovery. Do not agree to settle with an insurance company before consulting with an attorney. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, not the business of looking out for your best interests.
Our Experienced Car Accident Lawyers
The White Plains, NY personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC have extensive expertise in evaluating and resolving accident cases involving buses, trucks, and commercial vehicles. We represent victims that have suffered severe injuries, including paralysis, burns, fractures, spinal cord injuries, dismemberment, nerve damage, and wrongful death.
Automobile accidents have many causes including, but not limited to, the following:
- Reckless driving
- Defective auto parts
- Drunk drivers
- Improper design of roadways
- Failure of construction workers to properly direct traffic
- Use of cell phone or texting while driving
When Can I File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Most car accident claims are based on a theory of negligence or carelessness. A person is considered to be negligent when they fail to use the level of care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation.
Negligence has four elements:
- Duty: the at-fault driver (defendant) owed the injury victim (plaintiff) a duty of care
- Breach: the defendant breached or violated that duty in some way
- Causation: the breach was the proximate or but for cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
- Damages: the plaintiff suffered losses as a result
A plaintiff must prove each of these four elements to recover in a New York car accident lawsuit.
As discussed above, drivers can be negligent in any number of ways. A driver who fails to yield and causes an accident may be considered negligent. Similarly, a driver who backs up or makes a turn without checking to make sure that the coast is clear could be deemed negligent if they crash into someone.
There are also situations where a driver acts intentionally or recklessly. While intentionally causing a car accident is rare, it does happen. More frequently, a person acts recklessly – such as by drunk or drugged driving.
While fault is often clear in a car accident, there are situations where it is more difficult to discern – such as a multi-vehicle collision. There are also cases where the injury victim was partially to blame. For example, if you are driving over the speed limit but another driver crashes into you after turning without the right of way, you may be considered at least somewhat at fault for the accident.
New York follows a “pure” comparative negligence rule. This means that even if you were somewhat to blame for the accident – up to 99% – you can still file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party for your injuries. Your total recovery will then be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault.
Questions of negligence and responsibility for a motor vehicle accident can be complicated. If you have been hurt in a collision, a New York personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and your options.
Compensation in a Car Accident Claim
In personal injury cases, you may be entitled to three different types of compensation: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages are compensatory, which means that they compensate an accident victim for their losses. Punitive damages are designed to punish an at-fault driver who engaged in intentional or reckless conduct.
Economic damages cover direct financial losses. Examples of economic damages include lost wages, reduced earning capacity, medical expenses, future medical care, and property damage. These types of damages are often proven using invoices, medical bills, pay stubs, and other documentation.
By contrast, non-economic damages are designed to compensate you for intangible losses. This may include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, scarring, and/or disfigurement. These kinds of losses can be harder to prove, but a skilled New York car accident attorney will work with expert witnesses and use their knowledge of similar cases to build a strong claim for damages.
Finally, punitive damages are available in more unusual cases that involve intentional or reckless behavior – rather than negligence. For example, if you are hurt in a drunk driving accident, you may be able to seek punitive damages against the at-fault driver. Your auto accident attorney can help you determine if punitive damages are an option in your case.
What are the top Misconceptions Regarding Auto Accident Claims?
The most important misconception is that people tend to think the at-fault driver’s insurance company is on their side, and will take care of them. The reality is that the insurance company for the at-fault driver is trying to save as much money as possible. They do not have the injured victim’s best interest in mind. They have the insurance company’s interest in mind. Another misconception is that simply because you are injured in an accident, the insurance company will offer a settlement no matter what. In New York, that is not the case.
Your injury must meet specific criteria, sometimes called the “Serious Injury Threshold”. There are certain injuries that qualify under New York law where injured parties are compensated. There are other types of injuries that the only remedy those injured parties are entitled to, is payment of their medical expenses through no fault (the injured party’s own insurance company).
What are the Liability Laws Regarding Auto Accidents in New York?
Under New York liability laws, any person who is involved in an accident is entitled to get their medical treatment and have that treatment paid for by their own insurance carrier, which is the “no fault” or PIP side of their own insurance carrier. It means that no matter who is at fault in the accident, your own insurance company is going to be the one paying for all your medical bills (up to $50,000 in most instances). That is the basic no fault paradigm.
What is Pure Comparative Negligence? how Does it Affect an Auto Accident Claim?
Comparative negligence is a legal defense; the defendant (presumably at fault for the accident) can reduce the amount they owe in damages by the percentage of the injured party’s own negligence. If a case goes to trial, and the jury apportions one person at sixty percent at fault, and the other driver at forty percent fault, and then comes up with the total amount of damages, the amount recovered will be reduced by the percentage apportioned to the plaintiff, who is the injured party. On the flipside of that, in a comparative negligent state, like New York, even if the other driver, assuming it is a two-car accident, is found to be one percent responsible, their insurance company has to pay damages. Therefore, that can be important in particular in cases involving very serious injuries.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Bringing an Auto Accident Claim in New York?
In general, the statute of limitations in New York is three years. That assumes, however, that the defendant driver and owner of that car are private citizens. Where the accident involves a municipally owned vehicle, that statute of limitations may change, and there may be additional procedural requirements, like a notice of claim, or a shorter statute of limitations. The same can be said if we are alleging that the car accident was caused by some type of defect in the roadway, or problems with signage on a highway. Any claim that can be attributed to a municipality’s negligence is going to be subject to a shorter statute of limitations. This is usually a year and ninety days in New York, and there is going to be that additional requirement that a notice of claim must be filed within those ninety days of the accident.
What Should I Do if the Other Party’s Insurance Company Contacts Me?
You are not required to give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Your response should be, “I am represented by an attorney”, or, “I am seeking counsel, so I am not going to give a statement at this time”. Most people see no harm in giving a statement to the other driver’s insurance company, but it can end up being problematic. Do not provide a statement without speaking with your attorney.
What Happens if I Have Delayed Medical Treatment After an Auto Accident?
It is not uncommon for people to start feeling pain, particularly neck, back, and shoulder pain after an accident. The initial trauma sometimes does not result in pain until later on. Your adrenaline kicks in, and they do not feel pain until a day or two later. That, in no way, shuts you out from filing a claim, or a lawsuit. In that instance, again, the first thing you want to do is make sure that you get the required treatment. Go to a doctor as soon as you can. You should not hesitate to pursue a claim just because the pain started a day or two later.
How Can Gaps in Treatment Impact an Auto Accident Claim?
Gaps in care are those periods where injured people stop their treatment, but then they go back at a later date. This can hurt their case and potentially decrease its value.
It is very important that you get the treatment recommended by your doctors and that you do not miss your appointments. We want to be able to show the other side that your injuries require a certain amount of treatment, and that you, the injured party, did not have anything to do with the injury getting worse, or not treated appropriately. We want to be able to say we did everything that the doctor recommended, and that based on his recommendations, we needed X, Y, Z treatment. If you seek treatment for a month and then stop going, whether it is physical therapy, or something else for months, and then you try to start it up again at a later date, it can present a problem for us in terms of relating the injury back to the accident itself.
How Long do Auto Accident Claims Typically Take to get Resolved?
Each auto accident case is different, but to give you a general timeframe, it can be as short as four to six months if everything is straightforward and the treatment resolves itself quickly. If the case requires litigation, it is probably more towards the eighteen months to two years to get a car accident case resolved in New York.
How Can a New York Car Accident Lawyer Help?
After a car accident, you may be approached by an insurance adjuster. They may seem nice, and may even tell you that they take full responsibility. They may ask you to give a statement, sign paperwork, or even offer you a settlement.
No matter how nice the adjuster may seem, you should never talk to the other driver’s insurance company until you have had a chance to talk to a lawyer. Insurance companies are in business to make money. One of the ways that they do this is by paying out as little as possible on personal injury claims. Bottom line: insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart.
A car accident lawyer, however, is required to advocate for your interests. They will take over all communications with the insurance company for you. At the same time, they will begin an investigation into the circumstances of your accident by interviewing witnesses, gathering accident reports, collecting medical records, and reviewing photos and videos of the accident scene.
Your attorney will then use this information to put together a demand letter. This letter sets out the facts of the case, the legal reason why their insured is liable and makes a demand for damages. When the insurance company receives the letter, they will typically respond with a counteroffer.
Most personal injury claims are resolved outside of court through negotiation. However, if the insurance company won’t offer you a fair settlement, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit and take the case to trial to get maximum compensation for your injuries. When insurance companies know that you have an experienced car accident lawyer with a track record of success, they are more likely to offer you a good settlement.
Studies show that people who are represented by legal counsel recover an average of 40% more than people who represent themselves. In addition, most personal injury law firms handle claims on a contingency fee basis, which means that you won’t pay any attorney’s fees unless they recover money for you. In other words, you have nothing to lose by hiring a personal injury lawyer – and potentially quite a lot to gain.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
According to the New York Department of Health, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of injury-related death for New Yorkers. On average, 1,098 people die each year in fatal car accidents in our state. In addition, there are more than 12,000 hospitalizations and 136,913 visits to the emergency department for auto accident-related injuries.
There are many different potential causes of motor vehicle accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) compiles data on traffic accidents in the United States. Per NHTSA reports, the most common causes of car accidents include:
- Rear end accidents
- Angle crashes
- Collisions with a fixed object
- Head on crashes
- Rollover accidents
These types of accidents are most often the result of driver error. This may include anything from reckless driving to distracted driving (texting while driving) to speeding to failure to yield to drunk driving. In some cases, defective car parts, improper road design, or even a failure of construction workers to properly direct traffic can cause a crash.
No matter what the underlying cause may be, any type of car accident can cause severe injuries such as paralysis, burns, fractures, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, dismemberment, and nerve damage. In some cases, it may even lead to wrongful death. The likelihood of suffering a catastrophic injury increases when the wreck involves a bus, tractor-trailer, or other commercial motor vehicles.
If you have been hurt in a car accident, you may not know what your rights are – or where to turn for help. Our law firm will work with you to help you obtain maximum compensation for your accident injuries. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
When you are in a car accident, the last thing that you want to deal with is bureaucracy, paperwork, and insurance adjusters. Our law firm can take on that burden for you. We’ll give you peace of mind in knowing that your case is being handled appropriately – and that we are fighting to help you get the compensation that you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident in the New York area, please contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC. We have three conveniently located offices in White Plains, NY, New York, NY and Uniondale, NY.
We will pursue the maximum amount of compensation on your behalf, including damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and/or future loss of earnings, future medical expenses, and future pain and suffering.
If negotiating with the insurance companies involved does not result in an agreeable settlement, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC will try your case in front of a jury. Please click here for a sampling of results we have achieved for our clients.
With offices in White Plains, New York City, and Uniondale, the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan is well-equipped to represent injury victims throughout New York. We are aggressive advocates for our clients, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team, give us a call at (914) 220-1086 or fill out our online contact form.
- How Important are Evidence and Witnesses in an Auto Accident Claim?
- The Statute of Limitations for Bringing an Auto Accident Claim in New York
- The Elements That Determine the Viability of an Auto Accident Claim in NY