New York Car Accident Law
Victims of car accidents in New York may have legal rights to assert. Depending on the circumstances, they may be able to recover compensation for many types of costs and losses associated with the crash. Serious car accidents can cause physical, emotional, and financial stress, so you should consult an attorney promptly about the possibility of taking legal action if you are in this challenging situation. Recovering compensation can make a huge difference in reducing the pressure on victims and their families, allowing them to move forward with their lives.
Proving Negligence in New York Car Accident Cases
Most car accident cases in New York and elsewhere are based on the legal concept of negligence. This means that a driver (or sometimes another person or entity) failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances. Unfortunately, many people fail to drive safely and take appropriate precautions for the safety of others. Some common examples of negligence include texting while driving, failing to yield at an intersection, drunk driving, and forms of aggressive driving such as tailgating or excessive speeding.
In addition to proving that the defendant driver acted negligently, your attorney would need to show that this negligent conduct caused the crash that led to your injuries. This essentially means that you would not have been injured if the driver had taken the proper safety precautions, and the accident was foreseeable considering the defendant’s conduct. Sometimes a defendant will argue that the victim also played a role in causing the crash. Even if this is true, New York uses a generous form of the comparative negligence rule. Victims can recover compensation in proportion to the defendant’s fault, regardless of the degree of the victim’s own fault. In other words, even if you were 60 percent responsible for a car crash, you could recover 40 percent of your damages.
Types of Compensation Available for Victims
The forms of damages available in car accident cases cover both economic and non-economic costs and losses. For example, most victims will be able to receive compensation for the medical bills that they incurred after the crash, as well as any medical expenses that are reasonably likely to arise in the future. They also probably can recover compensation for lost income resulting from time away from work, in addition to future lost earning capacity if the accident results in permanent disabilities and forces them to change their job or career. Other examples of economic damages may include property damage to the vehicle and adjustments to a victim’s home based on their disabilities. Non-economic damages cover more subjective forms of harm, such as the pain and suffering that a victim experienced or any scarring or disfigurement. The amounts for these types of damages are less easily quantified and vary dramatically depending on the victim’s specific situation.
Wrongful Death Actions
Tragically, some car accidents claim the life of a victim. When this happens, their family members may have legal recourse. The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate can file a wrongful death claim to recover specific types of damages. These usually include medical, funeral, and burial expenses, as well as the loss of the victim’s support, guidance, and services. Compensation for the victim’s lost income and conscious pain and suffering also may be recovered, although family members cannot recover damages for their own pain and suffering or mental anguish.
The Timing of Your Car Accident Lawsuit
A common issue in car accident cases in New York is the statute of limitations. This procedural rule governs the time in which a victim or the personal representative of their estate can file a personal injury or wrongful death case. In New York, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases arising from car accidents is three years from the date of the injury. The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in New York is only two years. Failing to bring a claim within the appropriate time period usually results in the dismissal of the case, even if the plaintiff likely could have prevailed on the merits. (There are some exceptions that permit the tolling, or pausing, of the statute of limitations, but these are relatively narrow.)
Even if the statute of limitations is not close to expiring, you should not hesitate in taking legal action. Evidence tends to decay quickly, including both physical evidence and the memories of witnesses. Also, defendants and their insurers will promptly investigate an accident in an effort to build arguments to avoid liability. Victims or their family members should get their own attorney on their side to investigate the case from their perspective and make sure that vital evidence is preserved.
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