Since Henry Ford’s Model T brought automobiles to the masses, cars have changed the way we live our lives. In the century since Ford’s revolutionary invention, the introduction of safety features have made cars today safer than ever before. But despite the advent of features like seat belts, airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, crash avoidance technology, and even autonomous vehicles, car accidents still happen and motorists are still seriously injured.
Because of many factors, car accident lawsuits can be complex: injuries can be catastrophic and long-lasting, accident scenes are quickly cleaned up, physical evidence can be damaged or lost, and witness’ recollections of what happened can fade. As a result, it is extremely important to speak to an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.
The attorneys at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. are experts in car accident cases. We have represented hundreds of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who have been seriously injured in car accidents. No car accident case is too complex or challenging. To speak to an experience car accident attorney at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C., Contact Us or call 1-800-2-DEARIE.
I was in a Car Accident, Now What?
As soon as you contact The Dearie Law Firm, P.C., our lawyers, investigators and experts will conduct a thorough investigation into your car accident. But there are some things you can do immediately after your accident that will help your lawsuit. Here are some suggestions:
Seek Medical Treatment
If you were not taken by ambulance from the car accident scene, and you think that you were injured, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If you are feeling pain after a car accident, go to the hospital or go see your doctor
Not only is it important that you get medical treatment for any injuries you sustained, but documenting any injuries soon after your accident demonstrates a connection between the accident and any injuries that it may have caused.
If you merely hope the pain will go away and wait to see a doctor, it can (and will) be argued by Defendants that your injuries were caused not by the car accident, but by some intervening event after the accident and before you received medical treatment. So if you feel pain or think you are injured, go see a doctor immediately.
Police Accident Report
If the police responded to the scene of your car accident, they likely prepared a Police Accident Report. It is very important that you get a copy of the Police Report as soon as possible.
NOTE: In New York State, a Police Accident Report is prepared on Form MV-104. View Form MV-104 by clicking HERE.
If you did not receive a copy of the Police Accident Report at the accident scene, it must be obtained from the responding police department. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. can assist in getting the Police Accident Report. If your car accident happened in New York City, the police report will likely be at the NYPD Precinct that is responsible for the accident location.
If the Police did not respond to the accident scene, you should go to the local Police Department or Police Precinct, and file an accident report.
The Police Accident Report will contain information about the vehicles involved, the drivers, insurance information, accident diagrams, and witness statements. As a result, a Police Accident Reports are very important pieces of evidence.
File for No-Fault Insurance Benefits
The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. can help you file for No-Fault benefits if you are injured in a car accident. But because of the time limits on filing (see below), injured motorists or pedestrians often file for No-Fault benefits on their own.
What is No-Fault Insurance?
Many states, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts have enacted No-Fault Laws (often called simply “No-Fault”). No-Fault entitles individuals injured in a motor vehicle accident to be reimbursed by insurance companies for up to $50,000 in “Basic Economic Loss”.
Basic Economic Loss includes:
- Medical expenses (ex: doctor visits, hospital bills, co-pays, prescriptions);
- Lost earnings (if you miss work and are not paid, No-Fault will pay you 80% of your accident-related loss of earnings, up to $2,000 a month);
- Out-of-pocket expenses (transportation costs to medical treatment facilities, housecleaning, etc.).
No-Fault will pay for these expenses, up to $50,000.
How to File for No-Fault
You can view, download and print the New York State No-Fault Application by clicking HERE.
Where do I Send the No-Fault Application
If you were a driver or passenger in a vehicle involved in a car accident, the No-Fault Application must be sent to the insurance company that covers the car in which you were an occupant.
If you were a pedestrian struck by a car, the No-Fault Application must be sent to the insurance company that covers the car that struck you.
What is the Deadline for Filing for No-Fault?
The No-Fault Application must be filed with the proper No-Fault Carrier within 30 DAYS after the accident date.
What if there is no No-Fault Coverage?
If you were a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle, and you do not know the vehicle that struck you OR if the vehicle that struck you was uninsured, you may file a claim with the insurer of a household family relative who had an auto policy at the time of your accident (i.e., the car insurance company of a family member you live with, like a spouse, parent, child, etc.).
If no family member in your household had an auto insurance policy at the time of your accident, you should file a claim with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC).
I Filed for No-Fault. But Can I File a Lawsuit Against the Other Driver?
First of all, what is the purpose of filing a lawsuit after a car accident?
The reason to file a lawsuit (to sue the other driver) is because while No-Fault can reimburse you for Basic Economic Loss up to $50,000, No-Fault cannot reimburse you for expenses or lost earnings above the $50,000 limit OR for the pain and suffering caused by your injuries. In order to be compensated for economic loss above $50,000 and for pain and suffering, you must sue.
However, in States that have passed No-Fault Laws, not everyone involved in a car accident is allowed to sue. One of the reasons that States enact No-Fault Laws is to minimize the number of car accident lawsuits in the Court System. Because there are so many car accidents, if everyone involved in a car accident was allowed to sue, Courts would be overwhelmed with such lawsuits.
So to accomplish the goal of limiting car accident lawsuits, Serious Injury requirements (known as the “Serious Injury Threshold”) exist.
New York Insurance Law §5102 (aka “The No-Fault Law”) says that in order to sue for injuries sustained in a car accident, the injured party must meet the Serious Injury threshold (REMEMBER: you are entitled to No-Fault Basic Economic Loss regardless of Serious Injuries).
New York No-Fault Law says that the following injuries are “Serious Injuries”:
- Significant disfigurement;
- Fractured bone (including if you lost a tooth);
- Loss of a fetus;
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system;
- Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member;
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system;
- If you cannot work for at least 90 days during the 180 days after your accident.
Some of the “Serious Injuries” defined by The No-Fault Law are very clear and cause no confusion. For example, you either fractured a bone in your body or you did not. There usually can be little debate as to whether a motorist or pedestrian suffered a fractured bone.
Other “Serious Injuries” are less clear, particularly the “loss of use”, “consequential limitation” and “significant limitation” options (bullet points 6, 7 and 8 above). Since the New York No-Fault Law was passed in 1970, thousands of court decisions have interpreted what exactly constitutes “Serious Injuries”.
The bottom line is that if a Judge rules that injuries from a car accident are not “Serious Injuries”, there can be no lawsuit.
When Must I File a Lawsuit for Injuries Sustained in a Motor Vehicle Accident?
The maximum time after an event in which a lawsuit must be commenced is called the Statute of Limitations. The purpose of Statute of Limitations laws is to ensure that evidence (physical evidence and witness memory) does not deteriorate to such an extent that holding someone liable, based upon that evidence, would be unjust.
The Statute of Limitations in car accident cases is THREE (3) YEARS. So a Summons and Complaint, commencing a lawsuit, must be filed no later than 3 years after the date of the car accident.
Remember: you must file for No-Fault within 30 DAYS after your accident. But the Statute of Limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit is 3 years.
This is important because it may be that the “Serious Injury Threshold” is not met immediately after a car accident.
For example, a passenger involved in a car accident injures her knee in the crash, goes to her doctor, and begins physical therapy. Under those circumstances, the “Serious Injury Threshold” may not be met. But suppose that two months after the accident, the knee injury has not improved, and a doctor recommends the passenger has surgery, causing her to miss work for 5 months. At that point, the “Serious Injury Threshold” is more likely met, and filing a lawsuit would be appropriate.
To discuss any of the information contained in this page, or to speak to an attorney at The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. regarding a car accident, Contact Us or call 1-800-2-DEARIE.