How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help if You’re Being Blamed for an Accident
If you are being blamed for an accident, you might want to talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer. You could be financially liable for damages caused by the accident if a jury rules in the accident victim’s favor. Before you accept responsibility for an accident, you need to get the facts about liability and accidents from a trusted accident attorney.
New York is a No-Fault State for Car Accidents
Drivers are required to purchase minimum amounts of car insurance coverage in New York. Motorists must have at least $25,000 in bodily injury coverage ($50,000 per accident) and $10,000 in property damage coverage. Liability insurance compensates accident victims if you are responsible for causing an accident.
Additionally, motorists must also purchase no-fault insurance or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. The minimum amount of PIP insurance is $50,000. PIP insurance compensates the driver and other covered individuals injured in an accident, regardless of who caused the crash.
When a car accident occurs, the drivers and passengers file no-fault insurance claims with the insurance company. There is no need to prove who caused the accident to receive PIP benefits. However, no-fault insurance does not compensate victims for all damages.
What Damages Are Covered by No-Fault Insurance?
No-fault insurance benefits pay for medical expenses, lost income, and other reasonable and necessary expenses related to the injury, such as personal care. However, no-fault insurance does not cover all damages caused by an accident.
For example, you can only recover 80 percent of your lost earnings, up to a maximum of $2,000 per month. Lost earnings are limited to three years from the accident date. PIP coverage does not compensate victims for non-economic damages, such as pain, suffering, scarring, and permanent impairments.
PIP insurance does not apply in all cases. For example, you cannot receive PIP benefits if driving while impaired contributed to the cause of the accident, you intentionally caused the crash, or you were injured in a stolen vehicle. No-fault insurance does not pay for damage to vehicles or personal property.
Why Should I Worry About Being Blamed for an Accident?
Even though New York has no-fault insurance laws, you can still be financially liable for an accident that is your fault. The auto accident victim could sue you for financial losses that exceed the limits of their PIP insurance policy. Therefore, you could be held liable for medical expenses, lost income, and other financial losses.
Additionally, the injured parties may sue you for damages not covered by PIP insurance if the accident resulted in a serious injury. “Serious injury” is defined by New York Insurance Law §5102(d). Injuries that meet the threshold to sue another driver include, but are not limited to, dismemberment, death, loss of a body organ, significant disfigurement, and loss of a fetus.
If you are sued for a serious injury, you could be liable for damages such as:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish and trauma
- Disabilities and permanent impairments
- Medical Bills
After the victim receives a judgment, the victim might take additional steps to collect the judgment. You can protect yourself by increasing your liability insurance to the highest amount permitted by your budget.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me When I Am Blamed for an Accident?
In addition to explaining the laws related to accident claims and giving you legal advice related to your specific personal injury case, an attorney can help you by:
Conducting an Accident Investigation
The first step is to determine if you were at fault for the accident. Sometimes a police officer makes a mistake when investigating an accident. The other party might be lying about how the accident occurred, or the insurance provider might be trying to avoid paying an injury claim.
A personal injury attorney conducts an independent, thorough accident investigation. An attorney has the time, skills, and resources you might not possess to investigate the crash.
Some steps your attorney might take to determine how the accident occurred and who is responsible include:
- Interview you, the police officer, and eyewitnesses to gather more information
- Review the police report and accident report for mistakes and relevant information
- Search for videos of the collision from traffic cameras, bystanders, and nearby surveillance cameras
- Inspect the accident scene and vehicles to gather evidence
- Consult with experts, including engineers and accident reconstructionists
- Demand information gathered by vehicle data recorders
- Request copies of cell phone records
There could be numerous additional steps your lawyer might take when investigating the crash. If a lawsuit has been filed, your attorney can use various discovery tools to gather additional information and evidence to determine the cause of the crash.
Reviewing Contributory Negligence Claims
New York is considered a “pure comparative negligence” state. One of the first steps is determining whether you may have contributed to the accident.
New York’s contributory negligence laws state that an accident victim’s damages are reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault for causing the accident. Therefore, you could reduce your financial liability for an accident by proving the victim contributed to the cause of the crash.
The jury decides the other driver is 70 percent at fault for the cause of the crash. Under contributory negligence laws, you are only responsible for 30 percent of the other driver’s damages.
Calculating Deadlines for Filing Lawsuits and Claims
The statutes of limitations in New York set deadlines for filing lawsuits. Most accident cases have a three-year deadline from the accident date to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the other party fails to file a lawsuit by the deadline, they lose their right to pursue a legal claim.
However, there are exceptions to the rule. Your lawyer calculates and monitors deadlines for filing claims and lawsuits. If the other party attempts to file a lawsuit after the deadline, your lawyer can file a petition to dismiss the lawsuit.
Investigating Whether the Victim’s Injuries Meet the Serious Injury Threshold
As stated above, accidents are subject to New York’s no-fault insurance laws. If a victim files a lawsuit, the victim must meet the serious injury threshold to seek compensation for damages. Your lawyer aggressively investigates whether the victim’s injuries meet the definition of “serious” in the statutes.
The attorney may retain medical experts to testify that the victim’s injuries do not meet the threshold. In some cases, a lawyer might hire an investigator if the lawyer suspects the victim is faking their injuries.
Filing a No-Fault Insurance Claim
Even if you are at-fault for the cause of an accident, you can recover compensation for your injuries and loss of income by filing a no-fault insurance claim. No-fault insurance claims are not always paid. Insurance companies may fight your claim to avoid paying the claim.
Your lawyer can also help you analyze a settlement offer or file an injury claim and seek fair compensation for allowable damages. If you have a serious injury, you could also be entitled to compensation from the other party if you were not 100 percent at fault for the cause of the accident.
Contact Our New York Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If you have questions about accident claims or insurance claims, contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation with an experienced New York personal injury lawyer.