New York City Car Accident Attorney
Millions of car accidents happen every year in the United States. As seen by our New York City car accident attorneys, driver error, faulty vehicles, poor maintenance, dangerous road conditions, and many other factors contribute to the number of injuries and fatalities on New York’s roads each year. Areas with more traffic naturally tend to display higher accident rates, and New York City is one of the most congested areas in the country in which to drive.
Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP is a law firm for the people of New York City. We do not represent big companies; we work hard to help normal citizens recover their losses after car accidents and other damaging incidents so they can get their lives back together. Every New York City personal injury lawyer at our firm wants the people of New York to understand the risks of driving in the city and also wants them to know what to do in the event of an accident.
New York City Roads
The New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) is responsible for more than 6,000 miles of roads. That is an incredible amount of road surface in a relatively small area. Additionally, NYC DOT is responsible for maintaining almost 800 bridges, more than 12,000 signalized intersections, and more than 300,000 streetlights. Since 2007, the city has spent more than $6 billion in capital projects aimed at maintaining New York City’s roads. In 2008, the NYC DOT launched a strategic plan aimed at modernizing the city’s infrastructure and ensuring the city’s roads meet modern demands.
One of the biggest concerns for the NYC DOT is the state of New York City’s “arterial streets,” several wide streets including Broadway, Atlantic Avenue, and Queens Boulevard. While these large streets allow several lanes of traffic to flow at once, their outdated designs now pose more problems than they prevent. Some of the city’s arterial streets have been almost unchanged for 50 or more years and many citizens, including supporters of Families for Safe Streets, believe these larger streets deserve immediate attention.
New York Car Insurance Requirements
As a no-fault car insurance state, New York has strict auto insurance laws and minimum amounts of coverage that all drivers must carry. All drivers should be able to seek financial recovery from their insurers after collisions. Failing to maintain at least the minimum required vehicle insurance could result in legal fines and penalties as well as loss of driving privileges. Getting into an accident with someone who doesn’t have enough insurance can require uninsured motorist coverage for benefits. The minimums in New York are:
- $25,000 in liability for injuries to one person, $50,000 for multiple people
- $50,000 in liability insurance for death to one person, $100,000 for multiple people
- $10,000 in liability insurance for property damage
- $50,000 in no-fault coverage per person
- $25,000 in uninsured motorist insurance for injuries to one person, $50,000 for multiple people
Liability insurance pays for the other party’s damages. It does not cover the policyholder’s losses. No-fault coverage is the insurance that helps the insured person. No-fault insurance will pay for the policyholder’s medical bills, 80% of lost income (up to $2,000 per month), $25 per day for household help, and $2,000 in death benefits. Uninsured motorist insurance will help if you get into a crash with someone who doesn’t have insurance or with a hit-and-run driver. Drivers can also purchase optional supplemental uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance up to $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident.
NYC Car Accident Statistics
The New York City Police Department recorded more than 135,000 car crashes during 2016. Of those accidents, more than 24,000 accidents resulted in more than 34,000 injuries and 134 fatalities. Those who support redesigning the city’s arterial streets believe that doing so could prevent as many as 50 deaths and 1,200 serious injuries.
Another reason the NYC DOT is working so hard to fix the city’s roads is a new ruling from New York’s highest court. This ruling states that the city is liable for injuries and fatalities in areas without any “traffic calming measures,” or safety structures and road designs intended to prevent speeding and traffic collisions. This ruling puts pressure on the NYC DOT to specifically address the most hazardous roads and intersections in the area.
Depending on the nature of a New York City car accident, an injured driver may be able to sue the city as well as the driver who caused the accident, depending on whether or not any “traffic calming” measures were in place at the time and whether the NYC DOT knew about the accident location’s hazardous nature. While this may complicate some future lawsuits, it could also help injured individuals recover compensation for their injuries and other damages. As with any other personal injury case, winning a lawsuit for a car accident in New York depends on the injured plaintiff’s ability to prove the other party’s negligence and a skilled New York City car accident attorney can help.
Common Causes of Car Accidents in New York
Driver error is the main cause of New York car accidents. Drivers who don’t pay attention to the road, drive while intoxicated, or break roadway rules are all likely to cause accidents. Other common reasons for car crashes are unsafe roadways, defective products, and negligent bicyclists and pedestrians. While all cases are different, here’s a breakdown of some of the most common reasons for collisions:
- Driver distraction. In 2016, at least 3,450 people died in the U.S. because of distracted driving. New York law prohibits the use of handheld cell phones behind the wheel to text, talk, read emails, or conduct other business. Unfortunately, many people ignore this rule. Other types of distractions include cognitive distractions, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, and personal grooming.
- Drunk driving. Every year, hundreds of people die or suffer serious injuries in New York driving under the influence (DUI) accidents. Drunk drivers cannot react as quickly to changing situations as sober drivers. Poor judgment and lack of ability to control the vehicle often contribute to these collisions. Someone is still guilty of DUI below a blood alcohol level of less than 0.08% if he or she is too intoxicated to drive.
- Broken roadway rules. New York has traffic laws in place to prevent collisions. Drivers ignoring roadway rules and failing to yield the right of way, passing too closely, speeding, running red lights, and breaking other laws greatly increase the risk of causing car accidents. An investigation may help gather evidence of another driver’s fault.
- Defective auto parts. Sometimes humans make errors in other ways that cause crashes – errors at auto part manufacturing facilities. Defective and dangerous brakes, tires, steering columns, ignition devices, and other parts can cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle and crash. Defective elements such as airbags and seatbelts can increase the odds of passengers suffering serious injuries.
- Dangerous roadways. Uneven shoulders, construction zones, potholes, debris in the road, loose gravel, malfunctioning traffic lights, shrubs covering roadway signs, and poorly designed intersections can all contribute to car crashes. In these cases, the city could be liable for injuries for negligently failing to maintain safe roads and prevent accidents.
Understanding the most common causes of car accidents can help you prevent them, but it can also be helpful when trying to determine liability after a wreck. Identifying the cause of the crash will, by extension, determine who is legally at fault. Although New York is a no-fault state, deciding fault could help when it comes to filing a personal injury claim. Another driver, product manufacturer, roadway maintenance crew, and/or other party could owe you compensation after causing your wreck so speak with a New York City car accident attorney to learn more.
Proving Negligence in Car Accident Cases
Personal injury law hinges on the concept of negligence. Negligence is a blanket term that describes any action taken without regard for the safety of others or taking any action that another reasonable person in the same situation would not have taken. To prove negligence, the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) and his or her New York City car accident lawyer must prove the following concerning the defendant (the person or party the plaintiff is suing):
- Duty. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, or had an obligation to act with reasonable care in the situation in question.
- Breach. The plaintiff must then show the court how the defendant violated or breached this duty of care in some way. In some cases, a breach of duty may be a direct action, such as speeding or failing to engage a vehicle’s headlights at night. In other cases, an inaction when a particular action would have been reasonable and appropriate can constitute a breach of duty.
- Cause in fact. The plaintiff must prove that his or her injuries and/or damages were the result of the defendant’s behavior and not some other factor. Essentially, the plaintiff must show that his or her damages would not have happened were it not for the defendant’s negligent conduct.
- Actual harm. Finally, the plaintiff must prove that he or she suffered actual harm. You cannot sue if you suffered no loss. Plaintiffs must be able to completely demonstrate the extent of their injuries and losses to claim compensation for them.
A plaintiff’s success in court will depend on proving these four facts of the case as well as other evidence, including the police report from the accident, the medical report detailing the plaintiff’s injuries, eyewitness testimony, security footage, and much more.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations in New York
Every state has statutes of limitations or strict deadlines by which all parties must file personal injury claims with the civil courts. Statutes of limitations exist to keep lawsuits fair. They prevent accident victims from waiting so long to file claims that important evidence is lost or destroyed. You must file a claim before the statute of limitations for a car accident expires in order to preserve your right to receive compensation. With rare exceptions, missing your deadline means losing your right to file.
In New York, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is three years from the date of the car accident. The three-year rule also applies for claims involving property damage only. If, however, one needs to file a wrongful death claim after a car accident, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death to file. Most courts will toll, or extend, the statute of limitations until the date on which someone discovers his or her injuries. Contact our NYC car accident attorneys to discuss your precise deadline for filing.
What to Do After a Car Accident in New York City
A car accident is a scary experience. After a crash, a driver is likely to feel disoriented and in some shock, but it’s vital to remember a few important actions to take immediately following a car accident in New York City. First, assess your condition. If you feel well enough to move around, check on the immediate area and the other drivers involved.
You are required to notify the police of any accident that caused an injury or property damage, so do so as soon as you are able to and make sure that you get an accident report. While you wait for the police to arrive, it’s a good idea to take photos of the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle, the positions of the vehicles on the road, and your injuries, if possible.
When the police arrive, they will want to assess the situation and then quickly remove the traffic obstruction so other drivers can continue on their way. It’s important to take your photos before they clear away potentially valuable evidence, but if your vehicle is moveable and blocking traffic, do your best to clear it out of the way. The police will take statements from everyone involved in the accident and any witnesses who remain in the area. Be careful what you say, as the police may construe even off-the-cuff phrases like “I’m sorry,” or “I didn’t see…” as admissions of guilt. Answer the police officer’s questions honestly and concisely, but do not say anything that could be an admission of fault, even if you think you are partially to blame for the accident.
Seek Medical Care Following an Accident
If your injuries are severe, or you have difficulty moving in your car after an accident, remain calm and stay put until emergency responders arrive. If you are able to move about and speak with police, answer their questions and once the police tell you that you are free to go, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Even if you do not feel seriously injured, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as you can for two reasons. First, some injuries do not immediately manifest symptoms. The adrenaline rush from the accident may dull pain, and failing to seek medical attention quickly could enable an injury to become more serious. Second, if you wait too long to seek treatment, a jury may view this as an indication that your injuries were not as serious as you claim, and could hurt your chances of winning a future lawsuit for your accident.
Car accidents often cause serious injuries including broken bones, lacerations, burns, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, internal organ damage, and many more possibilities. Your doctor will be able to assess your condition and determine the extent of your injuries. After receiving care, your doctor should provide you with a medical report that lists the extent of your injuries, potential for long-term complications, and your treatment plan. This document will be invaluable to your case.
Compensation for NYC Car Accident Victims
A great New York City car accident attorney can fight for fair compensation for you and your family members after a disastrous car accident. What is fair will depend on the extent and costs of your injuries, as well as the impact they will have on your foreseeable future. The lawyer you hire can determine how much you receive from an insurance company or other defendant. The types of compensation, however, remain the same:
- Medical coverage. All car accident claims will result in coverage for any medical costs relating to the crash. Past and future medical expenses can include hospital bills, surgeries, medications, live-in care, medical devices, and rehabilitative costs, as long as the victim shall require them.
- Lost wages. Car accident victims often have to miss days, weeks, or even months of work while in the hospital and recovering from injuries. You may be entitled to recovery for missed wages and the lost capacity to earn if the crash caused temporary or permanent disabilities that take you away from your job.
- Pain and suffering. A lawyer can help you fight to recover financial awards to compensate you for physical pain, emotional suffering, distress, mental anguish, and psychological trauma stemming from your car accident. Family members of the deceased may also be able to recover loss of consortium damages.
- Punitive damages. A judge may award additional punitive damages to punish the defendant if he/she was guilty of gross negligence, malice, or intent to harm. These damages serve to punish the defendant for his or her actions.
An insurance claim alone may not cover the full extent of your damages. Under New York’s no-fault laws, however, you cannot file a civil claim against an at-fault party unless your accident resulted in catastrophic, disabling, or disfiguring injuries. Help from a qualified NYC car accident lawyer can go a long way toward securing you the financial recovery you need to move on after a harmful accident. Our attorneys can negotiate with insurers and pursue recovery through other means, if applicable.
Contact a New York City Car Accident Lawyer If You’ve Been Injured
After you’ve dealt with the police and obtained a copy of the police report for your accident, and you’ve obtained a medical report from your doctor, it’s time to start thinking about a personal injury lawsuit to recover your losses. The New York City car accident attorneys at Meirowitz & Wasserberg, LLP work diligently to help clients recover compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, property damage, lost income, and personal injuries following car accidents in New York.
Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation. Depending on the location, severity, and details of your accident, we can help you file a claim against a negligent driver, handle your insurance claim concerns, and even bring a lawsuit against the City of New York if necessary.