Many car accident victims endure physical pain, emotional hardship, and financial distress because of their injuries. Financial compensation is crucial for victims to navigate the road to recovery. However, because New York follows no-fault car insurance laws, the path to compensation can differ from case to case.
Only car accident victims that suffered “serious injuries” may bring lawsuits against other drivers. New York law has set forth general guidelines that establish what types of harm constitute serious injuries. Those who did not sustain serious injuries must pursue benefits through their own insurance companies. Further, proper medical documentation of your injuries is required in order to make a successful serious injury claim. After proving that you suffered a serious injury, you must establish a clear connection between the injury and your accident.
If you were injured because of a car accident in New York, get help recovering the full range of financial compensation available to you. Contact our experienced Westchester car accident lawyers by calling The Martello Law Firm at (914) 685-6950 for a free case review.
No-Fault Car Insurance Laws and the Serious Injury Threshold in New York
New York is one of a handful of states that follow no-fault car insurance laws. Accordingly, many car accident victims in New York must pursue compensation through their own insurance companies. Injured parties filing claims with their own insurance companies will only be able to recover economic damages for lost income and medical bills associated with their injuries. However, when filing such a claim, a victim will not be required to prove that another driver was at-fault for their crash.
According to I.S.C. Law § 5104, only victims that suffered “serious injuries” are permitted to file lawsuits against other, at-fault drivers. Unlike no-fault insurance claimants, plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits must show that they were injured because of the defendant’s negligent actions. The following general elements must be established in each car accident lawsuit:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care
- The defendant breached their duty of care
- You were injured because of the defendant’s breach of duty
- You suffered damages because of your injuries
Therefore, recovering compensation in claim against another driver can be more complicated than filing a no-fault insurance claim. However, plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits will have additional categories of economic and non-economic damages available to them. For example, plaintiffs will be able to recover compensation for the physical pain and emotional suffering they endured while no-fault insurance claimants cannot. If you were injured because of a car accident, you should contact our experienced Mount Vernon car accident lawyers for help evaluating the legal options available to you.
What Constitutes a “Serious Injury” Under New York Law?
The guidelines for what constitutes a serious injury have been set forth by New York law. According to I.S.C. § 5102, the following types of harm may be considered serious injuries:
- Substantial disfigurement
- Broken or fractured bones
- Permanent restriction of use of an organ or body part
- Significant restriction of use of a body system or function
- Substantially full disability that lasts a minimum of 90 days
If you sustained an injury that qualifies under one of these definitions, you may be allowed to step outside of no-fault car insurance laws to bring a personal injury lawsuit against another driver. There are many types of injuries that may be considered serious under New York law. You may contact our experienced New Rochelle car accident lawyers after a collision for help determining if the harm you suffered constitutes a serious injury.
What is the 90/180 Rule and How Does it Apply to Serious Injury Claims in New York?
The 90/180 rule is used to help determine whether an injured party’s disability qualifies as serious under New York law. For an injury to qualify under the 90/180 rule, the injury must prevent an individual from partaking in all of their typical daily activities for at least 90 of the 180 days immediately following their accident. If your injury qualifies under this definition, you will be considered to have a substantially full disability and may bring a claim against the driver who caused your crash.
Essentially, the 90/180 rule allows third-party cases to be filed by crash victims who can provide medical evidence that shows they could not live normally for at least 3 of the initial 6 months following their accidents. Accordingly, you should seek prompt treatment for your car accident injuries. A serious injury claim under the 90/180 rule must be supported by appropriate medical evidence.
How Will a Gap in Medical Treatment Affect a Serious Injury Claim in New York?
Proper documentation of the harm you suffered is required to support a serious injury claim in New York. Accordingly, you should seek medical treatment for your car accident injuries as soon as possible after your accident. Otherwise, courts may determine that you were not truly hurt or that your injury was not caused by the crash at issue.
Furthermore, you should attend all scheduled follow-up appointments with your physician and continue with any prescribed medication. Failure to continue any prescribed treatments could cause defendants to argue that you were no longer injured.
Accordingly, gaps in medical treatment can be highly detrimental to your serious injury claim. Taking the following actions can protect your ability to file a car accident lawsuit against another driver:
- Seek medical treatment as soon as possible after your accident
- Be up front about your pain when speaking to a doctor
- Schedule and attend all follow-up appointments
- Continue taking any prescribed medications
- Reach out to your physician immediately if your symptoms worsen
- Do not return to work if you have not been cleared to do so
- Do not partake in physical activities that could worsen your injuries
- Keep and preserve copies of all medical records related to your car accident injuries
Our Yonkers car accident lawyers can help refer the right doctors for you. Furthermore, our team can help you keep track of your appointments and medications to prevent a gap in medical treatment from negatively impacting your case.
Will a Pre-Existing Condition Affect Your Serious Injury Claim in New York?
Pre-existing injuries can complicate car accident claims. Defendants and their insurance companies often try to assert that a victim with a pre-existing injury was not harmed by the accident at issue. Accordingly, if you had a pre-existing injury at the time of your crash, you should get a report from a physician that states the injuries you suffered because of your accident are separate from your pre-existing injuries. Our experienced Whiteplains car accident lawyers can help ensure that a pre-existing injury does not wrongfully inhibit the value of your case.
Time Limit to File a Lawsuit Against Another Driver for Your Serious Injury in New York
Time limits to file particular types of cases are established by states statutes of limitations. Under C.V.P. § 214, a car accident victim in New York will have 3 years from the date of his crash to file a lawsuit against an at-fault motorist. Noncompliance with this deadline could cause you to forfeit your claim.
Even though you have 3 years to file your case, you should attempt to bring your lawsuit to court as soon as possible. The sooner you begin work on your case, the more easily you may obtain the evidence required to support your claim. As time passes, certain evidence can become difficult to gather or preserve. For instance, eyewitnesses may forget crucial details surrounding a crash. Furthermore, pertinent physical evidence can be misplaced. Accordingly, you should contact our New York car accident lawyers as soon as possible after a collision, so we may begin building your case right away.
Additionally, there are certain exceptions to the statute of limitations. For example, parents may file lawsuits on behalf of their children at any point until their kids turn 18. After turning 18, victims will then have three years to file lawsuits related to car accidents that occurred while they were minors. Our team can help explain how the statute of limitations will apply to your lawsuit during your free case review.
Common Examples of Serious Car Accident Injuries in New York
There are many types of injuries that may be considered serious under New York law. However, some injuries occur more often than others. The following are common examples of serious car accident injuries in New York:
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are a very debilitating and painful type of injury caused by car accidents. Victims with spinal cord injuries often experience immobility or even total paralysis. Accordingly, spinal cord injuries typically constitute serious injuries under New York law.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries are another type of serious injury caused by car accidents in New York. Such injuries are usually caused by external blows to the head and can produce a wide range of harmful symptoms that inhibit victims’ enjoyment of life. Accordingly, car accident victims who suffer traumatic brain injuries are usually permitted to seek compensation from at-fault drivers.
Many car accident victims suffer broken bones. Such injuries can be very painful and usually take a long time to recover. In serious cases involving compound fractures or crush injuries, surgical treatment may be necessary. Fortunately, broken bones will be considered a serious type of car accident injury.
Lastly, knee injuries are another type of serious harm suffered by car accident victims. Knee injuries can occur when passengers make forceful impacts with objects inside of their vehicles during collisions. If damage occurs to cartilage in the knee, victims may experience significant pain and immobility. Therefore, many knee injuries will also be considered serious under New York law.
How to Prove Fault for a Serious Injury in a New York Car Accident Lawsuit
In order for a car accident lawsuit against another driver to be successful, the plaintiff must establish that they suffered serious injuries because of the defendant’s careless or reckless conduct. There are many forms of evidence that can be used to show that another driver caused your collision. The following are examples of evidence frequently utilized by our experienced Westchester personal injury lawyers:
Traffic Camera Footage
Traffic camera footage can be very helpful when proving fault for a car accident in New York. Traffic cameras are used to surveil intersections, highways, and other crowded streets. Footage from these cameras can help show why or how an accident occurred. However, it can be frustrating to deal with parties in control of such evidence. Our team can help ease your stress by recovering a copy of relevant traffic camera footage in your case.
Witness statements are another effective form of evidence used to prove fault in New York car accident lawsuits. Like traffic camera footage, eyewitnesses can help explain the events that unfolded before, during, and after a crash. Accordingly, you should always attempt to retrieve contact information for any witnesses to your accident if possible. Our Yonkers personal injury lawyers can offer guidance and support when asking potential witnesses for their cooperation.
Physical Evidence from the Scene
Additionally, physical evidence from the scene can be used to prove fault for a car accident injury. For example, drug paraphernalia found at the scene of an accident may be used to show that a driver was impaired at the time of a crash. Our attorneys can help retrieve and analyze any relevant physical evidence from the scene in your case.
Unfortunately, some physical evidence may be difficult to bring into court or preserve. Therefore, other forms of evidentiary documentation are allowed.
Photos from the Scene
Photos from the scene of an accident are also often used to prove fault. For instance, photos showing a crushed vehicle may be used to establish that a defendant driver was travelling at high speeds when a collision occurred. Furthermore, photos showing skid marks at the scene can be used to show that a plaintiff attempted to brake and avoid the defendant before a crash happened.
Therefore, you should always take photos at the scene of your car accident if possible. Afterwards, our New York car accident lawyers can help assess the relevance of any photos from the scene during your free case review.
If You Were Injured Because of a Car Accident in New York, Our Lawyers Can Help
If you were injured because of a car crash, seek support from our experienced New Rochelle personal injury lawyers by calling The Martello Law Firm at (914) 685-6950 for a free case review.