Protecting Your Rights After a Car Accident: The Role of Car Accident Lawyers – Guest Post

Role of Car Accident Lawyers

Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic and overwhelming experience. Between dealing with injuries, vehicle damage, insurance claims, lost income, and more – it’s easy to feel confused about your rights and the best path forward. This is where working with experienced car accident lawyers can make all the difference in obtaining fair compensation and protecting your interests after an accident in New York.

Understanding No-Fault Car Insurance in New York

New York operates under a “no-fault” car insurance system. This means that regardless of who was at fault for the accident, your own insurance provider will cover your medical costs and lost earnings up to the limit of your “personal injury protection” (PIP) coverage.

The no-fault system allows accident victims to receive compensation without needing to prove fault or file a lawsuit against the other driver. Your own insurer will pay out your PIP benefits – which typically have limits between $50,000 and $150,000 in New York.

However, no-fault insurance also restricts your ability to sue the at-fault driver except for in cases of “serious injury” – which has a specific legal definition. This threshold is designed to reduce lawsuits and keep premiums affordable, while still allowing accident victims recourse for major injuries.

The Role of Car Accident Lawyers in the Process

Role of Car Accident Lawyers

It’s obvious that accident victims face various challenges based on their location given that states with the highest average vehicle insurance expenditures in 2020 were Louisiana, New York, and Michigan. Beyond just being aware of these differences, it’s important to comprehend how accident attorneys aggressively defend your rights following a collision.

Navigating New York’s complex no-fault system, third-party claims process, and laws surrounding car accident cases requires expertise that Merced Car Accident Lawyers can provide. An attorney can:

  • Advise you on the value of your claim and viability of a lawsuit based on your injuries.
  • Handle negotiations with insurance companies to maximize compensation.
  • Investigate accident details to establish negligence.
  • Provide evidence of economic and non-economic damages.
  • Develop legal arguments attributing fault percentages.
  • Litigate your case aggressively if fair settlement offers are not made.

Having an experienced car accident lawyer in your corner levels the playing field against insurance companies and at-fault parties. They know how to build leverage in your favor while preparing a case for trial if needed. Their representation is essential for fully understanding and exercising your rights.

Navigating the intricate world of insurance policies can be challenging given that 79 percent of insured drivers choose full coverage and 75 percent select collision coverage. Due to this complexity, automobile accident attorneys play an even more important role. However, how does the process go from the accident to the settlement, and what difficulties can you face along the way?

Compensation Options After a Car Accident in New York

Understanding your options for compensation after a car accident requires recognizing the distinction between PIP claims and third-party claims against the at-fault driver.

PIP Claims

Filing a PIP claim under your own policy provides coverage for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages up to 80% of income
  • Rehabilitation costs
  • Other reasonable, necessary expenses

PIP claims offer relatively fast access to benefits – but are limited by your policy’s maximum payout. Typically, insurance will only pay 80% of medical expenses, so you may still incur out-of-pocket costs.

Lawsuits Against At-Fault Drivers

If your injuries meet New York’s “serious injury” threshold – such as death, dismemberment, significant disfigurement, fracture, permanent loss of body function, or over 90 days of disability – you can pursue additional compensation by filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

This allows you to recover damages such as:

  • Full payment of medical bills
  • 100% of lost income
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Loss of consortium
  • Punitive damages in egregious cases

Proving fault and negligence substantially expands your options for compensation beyond just PIP benefits. But it also involves complex litigation and aggressive legal advocacy.

The New York Car Accident Statute of Limitations

If you want to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, it’s critical to act before the statute of limitations expires in New York.

The statute of limitations for car accident cases is three years from the date of the accident. This applies to both personal injury and property damage claims.

If you miss this deadline, the at-fault driver can raise the statute of limitations as an absolute defense against any legal action. You would forfeit your right to hold the negligent driver accountable.

Your PIP claims against your own insurer aren’t subject to the same statute of limitations. But you should file promptly to access benefits faster.

Comparative Negligence in New York Car Accident Cases

New York applies “pure comparative negligence” rules when determining fault and compensation in car accident lawsuits. This means that even if the plaintiff was partially responsible for causing the accident, they can still recover damages – but the compensation will be reduced proportionately based on their percentage of fault.

For example, if the plaintiff was found to be 40% at fault for the accident, any damages award would be reduced by 40%. So in a $100,000 verdict, the plaintiff would recover only $60,000 after accounting for their 40% comparative negligence. The defendant would still be responsible for paying the percentage of damages aligned with their fault, even though the plaintiff was also partially negligent.

Determining exact fault percentages often requires extensive investigations, expert testimony, negotiations with insurance adjusters, and complex litigation. Police reports, witness statements, video footage, and inspections of the damaged vehicles can all come into play. Establishing negligence and the relative fault of each party frequently involves conflicting versions of events and technical disputes that only experienced attorneys can effectively navigate.

But the key principle is that even if the plaintiff was somewhat negligent and partly at fault, New York law allows them to still recover compensation reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault. Pure comparative negligence weighs the negligence of all parties involved and apportions damages accordingly. This provides a more equitable approach than barring recovery completely based on partial plaintiff negligence. An attorney can advise on fault determination and build the strongest case possible to maximize recovery despite any comparative negligence.

FAQs on Car Accidents and Legal Representation

What if I believe I was partially at fault for the accident? How does that impact my claim?

Even if you were partially negligent, New York’s comparative fault rules allow you to recover damages reduced by your percentage of fault. An attorney can still help maximize your compensation.

How does the no-fault car insurance system affect vehicle damage claims?

No-fault insurance only covers “economic loss” like medical bills – not vehicle damage. You need to file a separate claim under your collision coverage or against the at-fault driver’s liability insurance.

What steps should I take immediately after a car accident in New York to protect my rights?

Seek any needed medical care, report the accident to insurers, document the scene with photos/video, obtain witness contact information, avoid discussing fault, and consult an attorney about your options.

The Key Takeaway

After being involved in any car accident, it’s important to understand your legal rights and explore all potential avenues for compensation. An experienced car accident lawyer can provide invaluable guidance at every stage of the process – from accident to final settlement. With strong legal representation, you can ensure your interests are protected and recover the maximum compensation you deserve.