Each year around 1.25 million fatalities are reported from automobile accidents all over the world. About 37,000 of those fatalities occur in the United States. It’s a staggering statistic. Another 2.35 people are injured in car accidents in the United States. Have you been in one yourself? It’s a scary thought, but you chances are you know someone who has been in a serious auto accident, and you should know what to do if you’re in one yourself.
- Call 911. If anyone was injured in the car accident, then you need to immediately alert to appropriate authorities. Even if everyone seems to be okay, call the police. Some people report injuries a few days after the fact, and it can be difficult to prove or dispute these claims when insurance adjusters and lawyers are subsequently notified.
This is important: never admit fault for an accident, even if you think you’re accountable.
- Photograph the Scene. Be sure to take pictures of any damage done to any vehicles involved in the crash. If you were hurt, photograph your own injuries. Be wary of photographing other people or victims, even if you have permission.
- Obtain Documentation. Stress can make us forgetful, but be sure to obtain all the relevant information from other drivers involved in the accident: insurance, make and model of all vehicles, vehicle identification numbers (VIN), license plate numbers, names, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. In addition, try to get contact information from pedestrians or other drivers who witnessed the accident. Your legal representation may find this information useful.
- Obtain Treatment. See a doctor as soon as possible after an accident, and be sure to mention any pain you might be feeling. If your symptoms change in one or two days, then it may be beneficial to make a repeat visit. Meticulously document your injuries by keeping medical records, photographs, and bills in a folder. It may be helpful to keep a journal detailing your thoughts, feelings, and pain management during your recovery.
- Contact Insurance Providers. Be as honest as you can with insurance adjusters, but do not admit fault. Many insurance adjusters will urge you to call from the scene of the accident if possible, or even to let police provide details of the accident directly after it happens, but avoid making this mistake. You can’t provide them with information you don’t have. If you feel uncomfortable speaking with insurance providers about the accident, then wait until after you obtain counsel.
- Find Legal Representation. A qualified and experienced lawyer can help reduce stress after a bad accident by guiding you through all the nuances of the applicable laws. If you are entitled to compensation from your insurance adjuster or from someone who may have been at fault in a car accident, then your legal representation will help you obtain it. If someone is blaming your for causing a car accident, then you need a proper defense.
In New York, if you own a vehicle, you are required by law to have a minimum level of car insurance. You are required to have:
- $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury per person (when you cause a car accident)
- $50,000 total liability bodily injury coverage per accident you cause (regardless of how many people are injured)
- $10,000 liability coverage for property damage (per accident you cause)
- $50,000 in no-fault (personal injury protection) coverage, and
- ninsured motorist coverage (for bodily injury sustained by you) subject to these same minimums.
So What Does This Mean?
Because New York is a “no-fault” state, when you are injured in a car accident, based on the minimum levels of car insurance that you are required to have, your own personal car insurance pays for your medical treatment and other out of pocket expenses for any injuries sustained in the accident regardless of who caused the accident.
However, if you are injured in a car accident that was due to someone else’s recklessness, with a no-fault claim, you cannot collect compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. If you wish to sue for non-economic damages, you must file a third-party insurance claim against the at-fault driver. But in New York, in order for you to pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver, you must have suffered what New York State refers to a serious injury. A serious injury includes:
- Broken Bones
- Loss of use of body organs
- Disability for 90 days
But What About My Car?
New York’s no-fault insurance only applies to injuries and not property damage. If your car was damaged in the accident, you can bring about a property damage claim to the at-fault driver’s insurance. If you were at fault for the accident, then the liability coverage in your insurance policy that is mandated by the state will determine how much is covered.
Negligence is a term used often in personal injury cases. In order for a plaintiff to seek compensation from an injury due to an accident (whether it be car accident, slip and fall, dog bite, etc), they must prove that the actions of the defendant were negligent.
In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff has to show that the defendant did the following four things:
- The defendant has a standard duty of care to uphold
- The defendant did not uphold the standard duty of care
- Because they did not uphold this standard duty of care, injuries were sustained
- These injuries led to measurable damages
An example of this is a medical malpractice case. It is common knowledge that doctors are responsible for providing adequate and accurate health care. If the doctor misreads a test result and does not provide the proper health care treatment, then he breached his duty of care. Because the doctor misread the test result, the patient suffered long-term injury and disability and therefore can no longer work. The patient has suffered lost wages and future earning potential due to the doctor’s misread test result.
Different Types of Negligence
There are several different types of negligence that can be proven regarding a personal injury case:
- Gross Negligence – More than a careless action, gross negligence is when someone displays a complete lack of concern for safety or standard of care. An example of this is when a nurse fails to change the bandages of a patient resulting in an infection.
- Comparative Negligence – This is when the plaintiff might be partially responsible for their injuries. This is common in car accident cases. A good example is a driver was moving through a green light but was struck by a vehicle running a red light. However, the driver wasn’t wearing his seat belt. He might be found partially liable for his injuries.
- Reckless Conduct – This is a slightly different form of negligence because in this scenario the person breaching the duty of care did so with intent. They knew that they were breaching the duty of care and continued to do so. A common example of this is an accident caused by a driver speeding.
- Strict Liability – In some cases, the person held liable is legally required to pay damages for an injury even if they weren’t negligent. For example, a dog owner might be required to pay for injuries sustained to a dog bite victim even if they were not acting in a negligent way when the accident occured.
Types of Damages Awarded From Negligence
Once negligence is proven, there are two different types of damages that can be collected is your personal injury case is successful:
- Economic damages – monetary compensations for measurable things such as lost income, future earning loss, medical bills, future medical bills, etc.
- Noneconomic damages – monetary compensation for things that are not measurable such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and mental anguish.
Contact Our New York Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s recklessness or negligence, the best course of action is to contact our New York personal injury attorney. Together, you will discuss the particulars of your case and work towards receiving the compensation you deserve for your injury.