What is Liability?

What is Liability?

If you’re injured in an accident due to no fault of your own, you may be able to seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. The party who caused your injuries may be held financially responsible for covering the costs associated with your injuries.  

But only if you can prove liability. Liability is a critical component of a New York personal injury lawsuit. Liability is a legally enforceable financial obligation owed to someone. You probably carry liability insurance coverage on your automobile that pays for damages in the event you cause an accident.

How Does Liability Affect Personal Injury Cases?

Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. Negligence is a legal theory that allows you to hold someone financially responsible for injuries caused by their careless behavior. To win a negligence case, you’ll have to prove all four of legal elements: (1) duty; (2) breach; (3) causation; and (4) damages.

Specific state laws surrounding liability and personal injury will affect your claim, whether you suffered injuries from a car accident, medical malpractice, workplace accident, or wrongful death of a family member. Having a basic understanding of these laws will help you understand what it takes to reach a successful outcome in your case.

How Do New York Car Accident No-Fault Rules Affect Liability?

An at-fault party in a car crash might not necessarily have to pay for your injuries. New York state is classified as a no-fault state. That means that anyone injured as the result of a motor vehicle accident must first rely on their own insurance policy for compensation for medical bills or other types of economic losses, no matter who is at fault. 

If you were a passenger in a vehicle, you would seek compensation from the driver’s insurance policy. 

The only time you can free yourself from New York’s no-fault rules to file a claim against an at-fault driver is when you meet the state’s threshold for “serious injury,” as outlined by New York State insurance law.

To meet this threshold, an accident victim must have experienced one of these injuries in the accident:

  • a significant disfigurement
  • a bone fracture
  • the permanent limitation in the use of a bodily organ/member
  • a significant limitation in the use of a bodily function or a system
  • a substantial disability for at least 90 days

When your injuries do qualify as “serious,” the at-fault party could be held liable. You may be able to seek economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. You could be entitled to compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If you’ve been in a motor vehicle accident in NYC, it’s best to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure you are pursuing all possible sources of compensation. 

What Is Shared Liability in New York?

Some personal injury cases may result in shared liability. New York personal injury law follows what is known as the “pure comparative negligence” model. This means that the whole dollar amount of a victim’s compensation will ultimately be reduced by an amount equal to their percentage of responsibility for the accident.

In many accident claims, the person or entity responsible for the injuries you suffered will try to shift the blame to you. This is a common tactic of insurance companies to get out of paying victims the full value of their injury claims. If it is determined that you share liability, your compensation will be reduced.

The following is an example of how New York’s pure comparative negligence works:

Emily’s vehicle was rear-ended: Emily was stopped at a traffic light. While Emily was stopped, she texted a message from her phone. Because she was preoccupied, she failed to see that the light had turned green. The driver approaching from behind saw a green light yet didn’t slow down, even though Emily’s vehicle was stopped. 

Both parties will likely share blame for this accident. Emily’s share of liability will affect her ability to recover damages based on her share of the blame, which will be assigned to her through a settlement or at trial. If she is found 25% liable, her compensation will be reduced by 25%.

What’s the Statute of Limitations on Personal Injury Cases in New York?

Every state has a time limit on how long a victim has for filing a claim following an injury. These time limits are known as statutes of limitations. Typically, there are varying deadlines based on the personal injury claim being filed.  

Under New York law, most personal injury claims must be filed within three years of the injury. That means that if the injured party fails to file a lawsuit within the required time window, they lose the right ever to bring a lawsuit related to the matter. If you miss this window, your chance to hold them liable (and recover compensation) is lost.

However, these same rules do not apply to medical malpractice cases in New York. The statute of limitation in New York for pediatric, medical, or dental malpractice is 30 months. There are also extenuating circumstances where the filing deadline may be altered or extended. An experienced New York injury law attorney will be able to help you determine if you are eligible for an extension beyond the statute of limitations.

To recover damages after a loved one is fatally injured in an accident, you must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the death.