Motor vehicle accidents are an unfortunate reality of everyday life. In many cases, these crashes lead to serious injuries. In fact, in Westchester County, an average of 331 people per month are treated in an emergency room for accident-related injuries. An additional 24 people per month were hospitalized as a result of car accidents in Westchester County, and 2 people per month died in accidents.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. Through a personal injury claim, you can recover financial compensation for your property damage, medical bills, future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. A skilled White Plains car accident attorney can help you negotiate a fair settlement for your case.
At the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, our experienced car accident lawyers advocate for victims of motor vehicle accidents in the White Plains area and beyond. We offer free initial consultations and handle all claims on a contingency fee basis. Reach out to our law firm today to learn more about how we can help you.
Filing a Lawsuit for a White Plains Car Accident
Auto accidents happen far too frequently in New York, including in and around White Plains. Unfortunately, no matter how careful of a driver you may be, another driver’s carelessness may lead to a collision. These accidents are often caused by driver error, such as:
- Failure to yield
- Drunk driving
- Distracted driving
- Failure to look both ways before turning, changing lanes, or backing up
A wreck can cause serious, life-changing injuries, including broken bones, spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage, and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In some cases, car accidents cause fatal injuries.
If you were in a motor vehicle accident, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. These claims are typically based on a theory of negligence, which is the failure to use the level of care that a reasonable person would use. Negligence has 4 elements:
- Duty: The at-fault driver (defendant) owed the accident victim (plaintiff) a duty of care
- Breach: The defendant violated that duty in some way
- Causation: that violation was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries (i.e., if the other driver hadn’t run the red light, the accident wouldn’t have happened)
- Damages: The plaintiff suffered losses (damages) as a result
In some cases, the defendant may have acted intentionally or recklessly in causing an accident – such as driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. If the at-fault party broke a law and caused the accident, the plaintiff may not have to prove that the defendant was negligent. Under the legal theory of negligence per se, it is enough to show that the defendant broke a law that was designed to protect against this type of harm and that the plaintiff was the type of person that the law was designed to protect.
Negligence isn’t always clear-cut. In some situations, the accident victim may also be somewhat at fault for the crash. Under New York’s comparative negligence laws, you can still file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver even if you bear some responsibility. Your total recovery will then be reduced by the percentage that you were at fault.
The Lawsuit Process
Personal injury lawsuits typically begin with a free initial consultation with a White Plains car accident attorney. During this consultation, your lawyer will listen to your story and offer you legal advice on your rights and options for pursuing a claim. If you decide to move forward, your attorney will get to work building a strong case for compensation.
This typically includes investigating the underlying facts of the accident by requesting accident reports, interviewing witnesses, gathering medical records, and reviewing photos and videos of the accident scene. At the same time, your legal team will research New York case law as they begin to draft a demand letter to the responsible party’s insurance company.
A demand letter sets out the facts of the case, the legal reason why their insurance is liable, and then ends with a demand for damages (compensation). Insurance companies typically respond to a demand letter with a counteroffer. This begins the negotiation process, where the parties go back and forth in an attempt to settle the claim.
The majority of personal injury cases are resolved outside of court. That being said, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to preserve your legal rights. After a lawsuit is filed, the parties will typically continue to negotiate, up to the eve of trial.
During the pre-trial phase of a personal injury lawsuit, the parties exchange information in a process known as discovery. They also file motions with the court to ask it to do something, like exclude certain types of evidence. As the parties gather more evidence, it may help them get closer to a fair settlement.
If an insurance company won’t offer maximum compensation for your injuries, your White Plains car accident lawyer may advise you that it is necessary to take the case to trial. There, your attorney will make arguments, introduce evidence, and question witnesses. They will then ask the jury to return a verdict in your favor.
Compensation and Settlements for White Plains Car Accident Claims
In any personal injury claim, you may be entitled to 3 types of compensation: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. Economic and non-economic damages are both compensatory damages, as they compensate an injury victim for their losses. Punitive damages punish a wrongdoer for their intentional or reckless conduct.
Economic damages pay for direct financial losses. They are proven through documentation like medical bills, estimates, invoices, and pay stubs. Examples of economic damages include lost wages, medical expenses, future medical care, reduced earning capacity, and property damage.
By contrast, non-economic damages pay for indirect losses. These damages can be harder to prove, but an experienced New York personal injury attorney can work with experts to help build a strong case for damages. Non-economic damages include money for pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Finally, punitive damages are available in rare cases where the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, such as drunk driving accidents. The goal of these damages is to penalize a wrongdoer and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
In wrongful death cases, the personal representative of the estate of the deceased person (decedent) may bring a claim to recover financial compensation for their losses. Through this type of lawsuit, the estate may recover money for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Healthcare expenses related to the injury
- Financial support that the decedent would have contributed to their family members
- The value of support and services that the decedent would have provided
- The value of parental care and guidance
- Lost inheritance
- The decedent’s pain and suffering
Any settlement for a car accident claim should include compensation for all losses suffered by the injury victims. Insurance companies often focus on economic damages to the exclusion of other types of damages. However, the intangible losses – like emotional trauma – that an accident victim suffers are no less important than the more concrete economic damages.
After an accident, an insurance adjuster for the at-fault driver may approach you to tell you that the insurer takes full responsibility, to ask for a statement, or to request that you sign some paperwork. You should not sign any documents, give a statement, or agree to a settlement until you have had a chance to talk to a White Plains car accident attorney.
Insurance companies are looking out for their own bottom line, not for your best interests. If you want to get maximum compensation for your injuries, your best option is to work with an experienced lawyer. They will put together a strong claim for damages, and fight for your right to full compensation. Ideally, you should hire an attorney as soon as possible after a motor vehicle accident.
Hurt in a Car Accident? We Can Help.
Being injured in a car crash can be incredibly traumatic. In this situation, you might not know what to do or where to turn for help. Our law firm is here for you.
Based in White Plains, the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan represent accident victims throughout Westchester County and beyond. We offer free initial consultations and handle all personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a New York car accident lawyer, give our law firm a call at 914-220-1086 or fill out our online contact form.
When Should I Hire an Attorney for My Car Accident Case?
You should schedule a free consultation with a White Plains car accident lawyer as soon as practicable after your crash. Doing so will help you get a better understanding of your rights and options for filing a claim so that you can make an informed decision about how to move forward. It can also help to ensure that your case is filed within the 3-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims in New York State.
By consulting with an attorney, you will protect your interests and avoid a situation where you walk away with a lowball settlement that doesn’t come close to fully compensating you for your losses. In Westchester County, call the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan to speak to a member of our legal team about your car accident case.
I Was in a Minor Car Accident. Do I Really Need a Lawyer?
You are not required to hire an attorney to resolve a car accident claim. However, in most cases, it is a good idea to work with a lawyer. Studies show that people who have legal representation recover an average of 40% more in personal injury cases compared to people who represent themselves.
The insurance company will have a team of lawyers and adjusters to represent its interests. They are not on your side, and in fact, their interests are in direct opposition to yours. If you have suffered any kind of injury in a motor vehicle collision, call the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan to talk to a White Plains car accident attorney.
What Does a Contingency Fee Agreement Mean?
Most personal injury law firms represent injury victims on a contingency fee basis. This means that instead of paying an hourly fee or a retainer up front, your lawyer will not charge you anything out of pocket. Instead, they will receive a percentage of your total recovery if – and only if – you recover money through a settlement or verdict at trial. The percentage that can be charged is governed by New York law and will be spelled out in your contingency fee agreement.
A contingency fee is a way for anyone to afford a lawyer, even if they don’t have extra money to pay cash. It also aligns your interests with your attorney’s, as you both will be motivated to settle the case quickly and for as much money as possible. In White Plains, call the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan to talk to a New York car accident attorney about your claim.