Maybe it seemed like a minor fender-bender with no injuries and only minor damage to one or both vehicles involved. Why bring in a lawyer and incur that expense and time commitment? There are many reasons, not least, that even a minor accident may be worse than it appears beneath the surface. Here are some situations in which bringing in an attorney is advisable.
More Than One Person Was Involved in the Accident
If more than one person was involved in the accident, whether other drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians, there’s the possibility that two different narratives will emerge from the accident, some of which won’t favor you. Having an attorney to investigate what happened and advise you during the process could help prevent you from being held liable for something that’s not entirely or partially your fault.
When at Least One Person Was Injured
Injuries open up the door to litigation. If you’re not the person who was injured, you may find yourself the subject of a personal injury lawsuit. If you were injured, the other party might be liable for at least some of the damages due to you. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know what approaches to take–and what approaches the other party’s legal team will take and how to counter them.
Time Has Elapsed Since the Accident
This is critical for a couple of reasons.
There is a statute of limitations on filing personal injury claims in New York. This means that the clock is ticking from the date of the crash. If a lawsuit is not brought within the time limit, you will lose your right to obtain compensation no matter how bad your injuries are and no matter that the other person was at fault.
As a general rule, a lawsuit seeking damages for personal injuries in New York must be filed within three (3) years from the date of the accident. However, there are notable exceptions to this rule, for example:
- If the accident involved a vehicle owned or operated by a municipality or other governmental entity, the limit is not three years. Instead, the injured person has ninety (90) days to serve the entity with a notice of claim and then, a lawsuit has to be brought within a year and ninety days of the crash.
- A lawsuit against the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey must be brought within one year of the date of the accident and only if a notice of claim is served upon the Port Authority a minimum of sixty (60) days prior to filing the lawsuit.
- If one of the people injured in the accident was a minor, they have until three years from their 18th birthday (or by the time they turn 21) to file a lawsuit.
- If someone is killed as a result of a crash, a lawsuit must be filed no later than two (2) years from the date of death. Sadly, New York law is very restrictive as to who can bring what is known as a wrongful death lawsuit and what damages can be recovered.
Not every personal injury case ends up in court. Many are settled through negotiations between lawyers and the insurance company representatives. Having a knowledgeable lawyer handling your case is critical to obtaining a successful outcome for any negotiation with an insurance company representative, reducing the stress of the situation for you.
Is New York a Comparative Fault State?
Yes. And that’s another reason why you need to have an experienced car accident lawyer on your side.
Comparative fault means that if someone was injured but they were at least partly responsible for the accident, the percent of fault will reduce the amount of damages they may be awarded at trial. So, for example, let’s assume that a drunk driver crashes into another driver at an intersection. A jury would likely determine that the drunk driver was at fault. However, if the evidence showed that the injured person was speeding into the intersection, the jury could also determine that the injured person was at fault, too. The jury could determine that the drunk driver was 80% at fault and the injured person was 20% at fault for the collision. In that situation, the jury’s verdict awarding damages would be reduced by 20%, no matter how horribly injured the person was.
But I thought that New York is a No Fault State!
It is. However, this refers to what vehicle’s insurance company will be responsible for paying the injured driver, passenger or pedestrian’s crash related medical bills and wages.
What Should I Do if I Was Involved in a Car Accident?
The first thing you should do is make sure that everyone in your car and the other vehicle is all right and if not, call 911 right away. You should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. It can be at an urgent care facility or a hospital emergency room. Even if you feel fine, there may be injuries that don’t immediately present symptoms, including some serious or life-threatening ones.
Most of us have cell phones with us at all times. Use your cell phone to record the scene on video and take photos of the vehicles. If there are witnesses to the accident, try to get their names and contact information. Look at the surrounding buildings, if there are any, for possible security cameras that could have recorded the accident as it occurred.
Then call us at 914-946-2500 for a free initial consultation with one of our White Plains, NY, car accident attorneys. We only get paid if we win, so we will work with you to get the best possible outcome for your case.
Equally important is what you shouldn’t do following a car accident. Do not speak with the insurance company representative for the other driver or vehicle. Their insurance company is not looking to help you. They want to find ways to make you accept responsibility for the accident. They may also ask you to sign a document releasing their driver or owner from any responsibility for the crash in return for paying you a small amount of money as a settlement. The only response you should make to any communication from the other vehicle’s insurance company is to refer them to your attorney.