Drivers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, passengers, and pedestrians are injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents every day in New York City. These accidents have many effects on the people involved, some of which can be devastating. Even if everyone involved has appropriate insurance coverage, getting the compensation you deserve after an accident is difficult. Experienced, knowledgeable car accident lawyers may be able to obtain a much better settlement than you could receive without an attorney’s involvement.
There are many factors at play when investigating and negotiating auto accident claims. The car accident attorneys at William Schwitzer & Associates know these factors and the investigation and negotiation processes. We are ready to assist you if you have been in an auto accident.
Have You Been Involved in a Car Accident?
No matter how you were involved in an accident, you need to know what to do immediately after the fact. You’re likely to be shaky or even injured, but taking these actions can make a significant difference in the amount of compensation you might receive in a personal injury lawsuit.
Even if no injuries are apparent, a police officer must come to the accident scene. Why? One of the duties the responding officer fulfills is making an accident report. That report contains critical information about the incident, including the officer’s opinion of who was at fault. Later investigations consider the officer’s view, and that view may determine the outcome of your claim.
Check yourself and others in your vehicle for injuries, and, if possible, try to check on the condition of others involved in the accident. Your 911 call should inform operators about any injuries so they dispatch the proper first responders, which might include ambulances and fire trucks.
It’s not always possible, but move your vehicle to the side of the road if you can.
State law requires you to remain at the accident site until an officer investigates the crash, even if you are a passenger or a bystander. You could face a hit-and-run charge if you leave.
Don’t admit that the accident may have been partially your fault. That admission might harm your case. Tell your car accident lawyer immediately if you admitted to guilt on the scene or later.
Make Your Own Report
Law enforcement officials will investigate the incident, but you should gather as much information as possible. Insurance companies and your auto accident lawyer include the information you provide in their investigations. Be as thorough as possible when you:
- Record other drivers’ personal information, including their name, address, contact information, license plate number, and insurance information.
- Speak to witnesses and others who were involved.
- Make your statement of everything related to the accident, including what you and other drivers or people did leading up to the crash, if weather-related issues may have contributed, how heavy surrounding traffic was, and further relevant details.
- Take note if the other vehicles involved appear to be personal automobiles or commercial vehicles.
Use Your Smartphone
Take photos and make videos of the scene. Get shots of all the vehicles from all angles that show any damage; also, get pictures of injuries. Try to get views of the entire scene from different places as well, so the insurance company and car accident lawyer’s investigators can see the whole picture.
Ask anyone you speak with for permission to use audio or video to record their statements; also tape your own statement. Recordings prevent later contradictions.
Keep a File
You will likely have medical bills, missed wages, vehicle repair costs, and other expenses resulting from the accident. Keep all receipts, quotes, invoices, and other related documents together in a file. Adding to the file immediately as you get these documents is easier than remembering where you put them later.
Obtain Copies of Other Videos
Traffic cameras and business surveillance systems may have captured the accident as it happened, and witnesses might have filmed the incident as well. Try to find out if videos recorded the accident and get copies of those videos. They might provide critical evidence in your case.
Let Medical Professionals Examine You
Not all injuries are immediately apparent. For example, internal injuries might not make themselves known until later. A medical assessment right after the accident establishes your condition, which can avoid arguments regarding your potential injury claim.
Know the Deadlines
If you were a driver, you have 10 days to submit the Report of Motor Vehicle Accident form to the Department of Motor Vehicles in most cases. If you don’t, you may find yourself with a suspended license or a misdemeanor charge. Your auto accident lawyer can submit all necessary paperwork before deadlines.
Report the collision to your auto insurance company within 30 days and preferably immediately after the incident.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Getting a lawyer involved right away can make things a lot easier for you. The first few days after a motor vehicle accident are often critical, and while you may not know everything you need to do, an experienced car accident attorney does. Although you can wait to contact a lawyer, hiring one early on means the investigation can get underway faster and possibly uncover evidence that might not be available later.
To recover maximum damages, don’t use an attorney who isn’t familiar with the intricacies of motor vehicle accident cases. A lawyer from William Schwitzer & Associates has experience handling insurance claims and negotiating fair settlements. We accept cases on a contingency basis, which means that we don’t get paid any attorney fees unless you receive compensation from your case.
How May the Wrong Actions Harm Your Case?
As important as knowing what you should do if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident is, it is just as important to learn what things you should not do. Your actions can negatively affect your case if you do things such as:
- Not giving all relevant information to your auto accident lawyer
- Not accepting immediate medical attention or ceasing recommended medical treatment
- Casually discussing the details of your case, including posting photos or information on social media
- Making paperwork errors, either by providing incorrect information or failing to submit by deadlines
- Lying about anything related to your claim to attorneys, investigating law enforcement officers, and insurance companies, or deliberately lying on paperwork
- Admitting fault for the accident
- Neglecting to gather potential evidence such as a copy of the police Traffic Collision report, photos or videos of injuries and vehicle damages, and contact information for other parties involved in the crash, or intentionally destroying or hiding evidence
- Signing any paperwork without approval from your auto accident attorney
Why Do You Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
The state of New York has laws that govern how insurance companies handle claims. New York is a no-fault state and uses pure comparative negligence when determining compensation. In addition, when multiple parties are at fault in an accident, joint and several liability rules come into play.
Because of these laws, car accident insurance claims are often very complex. If multiple vehicles are involved, those problematic issues are even more complicated. Your auto accident lawyer understands the laws and how they can affect you and your claim.
If you deal with your insurance company directly, it might offer you a low settlement amount. While the offer could sound reasonable initially, it may not be enough to pay for all your expenses, especially if you suffer injuries that lead to long-term consequences. A personal injury attorney from the William Schwitzer & Associates car accident law firm can represent your best interests when negotiating an insurance settlement, and you may receive more compensation as a result.
Your auto accident attorney can gather evidence and investigate your claim. Although your auto insurance company performs an investigation, it might reach a different conclusion. Insurance companies don’t want to pay out any more money than they have to, but your lawyer knows you deserve maximum compensation.
Distracted driving causes many of the motor vehicle accidents in New York City. Cell phone usage is one of the most common reasons for distracted driving. Your auto accident attorney can obtain the cell phone records for other drivers involved in your collision and potentially prove that those drivers were using their phones at the time of the crash. If so, that evidence can be crucial in proving that the other driver or drivers were at fault.
Finding enough evidence to prove that you had no responsibility for causing the accident is crucial because the amount of compensation you receive depends on your level of liability.
What Is a No-Fault State?
No-fault laws govern how car insurance companies can operate in New York. They apply to medical treatment and lost wages resulting from an injury sustained in a car accident.
In New York, the law requires car owners to obtain personal injury protection insurance. Your car insurance company must pay for certain expenses relating to injuries sustained in an automobile accident, no matter who was at fault in the crash.
There are different categories of damages you may be entitled to if you were in a motor vehicle accident.
PIP insurance covers basic economic losses within specific guidelines, up to $50,000 per person. These losses include medical expenses relating to injuries sustained in an accident, lost wages resulting from those injuries, and specific daily costs up to $25 per day.
In some cases, the $50,000 amount is the maximum you can recover. However, there are exceptions to that rule.
The lost wages provision only covers wages up to $2,000 per month within a three-year period. If you make $4,500 per month, you can attempt to recover the excess amount of $2,500 through a lawsuit.
You can attempt to recover other expenses that fall outside medical costs, lost wages, and daily expenses from an at-fault driver.
If your total economic losses resulting from the three categories included in basic economic loss are over $50,000, you may be able to recover those losses through a lawsuit. Your car accident lawyer can help you determine if your losses qualify.
Car accident victims can’t sue for non-economic losses unless they pass the “serious injury” threshold. New York state law defines a serious injury as one that causes:
- Partial or permanent disability
- Permanent disfigurement
- A miscarriage
- The loss of limbs
Medical professionals must provide evidence that your medical condition falls into the serious injury category before you can attempt to recover non-economic losses.
You must follow up with doctors or other medical professionals regularly, accepting treatments they deem necessary. If you cease treatment, you may not be able to recover damages.
The court will determine if you had a reasonable cause for doing so, and you must be able to prove that your circumstances did, in fact, provide a valid reason. If the court finds that you did not have a reasonable cause for stopping medical treatment, it may dismiss your case.
If you sustain a serious injury in a motor vehicle accident, you may be able compensatory damages. Possible compensatory damages are:
- Pain and suffering — This category can include emotional, physical, and psychological impairment and the inability to enjoy life due to the accident.
- Permanent disability
- The loss of wages or employment
- Loss of affection — If your emotional or sexual relationship with your spouse is negatively affected by your injury, you are sometimes entitled to compensation.
- Disfigurement — Disfigurement resulting from a car accident can cause mental distress, and courts award damages in some cases.
- Special damages
Your car accident lawyer from William Schwitzer & Associates will assess your case to see if you may be able to recover non-economic losses.
If someone who was grossly negligent caused your accident, you might be able to recover punitive damages. Gross negligence includes reckless, deliberate, and hostile behaviors. Punitive damages punish the guilty party, and insurance doesn’t cover them.
Why Is Determining Who Is At-Fault So Crucial?
In New York, the percentage of blame assigned to you determines the degree of your financial responsibility for accident damages. Because New York operates under pure comparative negligence and joint and several liability rules, you may have a problem if the courts find you significantly at fault for your crash.
One of the duties performed by your car accident lawyer is attempting to minimize your level of liability. Without the involvement of an auto accident attorney in your case, you may not get the amount of compensation you’re entitled to.
What Is Pure Comparative Negligence?
When motor vehicle accidents occur, all drivers involved may be partially responsible for the incident. An investigation determines the blame assigned to each party and insurance companies pay claims according to the percentage of fault their policyholder is accountable for. If the authorities assign you 70% of the blame, for example, your insurance company is responsible for 70% of the damages.
In some states, you are not allowed to receive compensation if you are 50% or more at fault in the accident. However, New York follows the pure comparative negligence rule. This means that you can recover a percentage of monetary damages regardless of how much fault is assigned to you.
The comparative negligence rule demonstrates why it’s essential to vigorously defend your innocence in a car accident case. If an investigation assigns you only a low percentage of fault for the collision, you won’t be liable for as much of the monetary damages.
Your car accident law firm will gather facts and attempt to show you have no or minimal fault to maximize the amount of compensation you can receive. The attorneys at William Schwitzer & Associates have a proven record of obtaining top verdicts and settlements for their clients.
What Is Joint and Several Liability?
When applied to motor vehicle accidents, the joint and several liability rule means that every driver holds shared responsibility for the total damages incurred by all parties involved in the lawsuit. That means that if five drivers were involved in your collision, you could legally sue and collect total damages from any of the four or all of them.
The liability limits of each driver’s car insurance policy significantly impact determining who will pay for damages. New York state law requires every driver to have a minimum of $25,000 of bodily injury liability insurance per person before they can register their vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles. In many cases, your damages will be much greater than $25,000, and the minimum liability coverage amount just doesn’t cut it.
Let’s look at that five-party situation. If four of the drivers have only the $25,000 minimum coverage or no insurance at all, and the fifth driver has high limits, the chances are that the fifth driver will be the one paying all the damages. That is true even if the fifth driver is only 5% to blame for the accident.
Believe it or not, that situation can get even more complicated. If, for instance, you, as the first driver, sue the four other drivers and win, you can choose that the fifth driver must pay you. The fifth driver can then demand that drivers two through four contribute to the payment. We’ve already established that only driver number five has significant liability coverage. Even though number five demands contribution from other guilty parties, they remain liable for the entire amount if the other drivers can’t pay.
There is much controversy surrounding the joint and several liability rules. Opponents claim it is unfair because this rule can force a person who is minimally at fault to pay all damages.
Your car accident lawyer from William Schwitzer & Associates knows the ins and outs of the complexities presented by the joint and several liability rule, and we can help assess your risk if you were involved in a collision in New York.
What Are Common Causes of Car Accidents?
A multitude of situations can lead to collisions. Some of the most common reasons that accidents occur are:
- Negligent, careless, nighttime, or reckless driving
- Failure to follow traffic laws
- Adverse weather conditions
- Automobile defects and tire blowouts
- Teenage or inexperienced drivers
- Potholes, dangerous curves, or other road features
- Animals in the roadway
- Street racing
What Is Negligent Driving?
Every person driving a motor vehicle must use reasonable care and drive responsibly. A negligent driver may carelessly drive into an intersection without having the right of way, merge into traffic without paying attention to other surrounding cars, fail to use turn signals, or veer into oncoming traffic unknowingly because of distractions.
While different situations cause collisions, negligent driving causes many of them. Your car accident lawyer will examine evidence to see if negligent driving contributed to the collision.
Distracted driving is the number-one cause of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Doing anything that takes your focus from driving falls under the definition of distracted driving. Some common examples of distracted driving are:
- Using a mobile device or phone to watch videos, talk, text, or read emails or other text, especially if you take one hand off the steering wheel to scroll or type
- Taking your eyes off the road to engage with passengers, applying makeup or fixing your hair, searching for something, or operating systems such as music or climate controls
- Daydreaming or looking at scenery rather than the road
- Drinking and eating
- Having music or other audio sources turned up so loud that you can’t hear traffic noise and, therefore, potentially not realizing you are in a hazardous situation
Driving when you’re too tired can result in delayed reaction times, the inability to focus, and even falling asleep at the wheel. All those things can easily cause you to crash. Fatigued driving compares to drunk driving as far as the physical and mental effects each has on your body.
Driving Under the Influence
If you drive while or after you’ve been drinking alcoholic beverages or using mind-altering drugs, you are both breaking the law and putting yourself and others at risk. Even over-the-counter or prescription medications can have adverse effects that may prevent you from driving responsibly. Pay attention to warning labels on all legal drugs and follow instructions if they say not to drive or operate heavy machinery while taking them.
If you are involved in a car crash, inform your auto accident lawyer immediately if you took any legal medications before or while you were driving. Additionally, if you suspect that other drivers were driving under the influence, be sure to tell your attorney. That way, the attorney can pay special attention to that driver’s medical reports or results of field sobriety tests.
Although illegal, many drivers routinely go over the posted speed limit. You might be running late for work, not paying attention to how fast you’re going, or just plain enjoying driving fast. Regardless of the reason, collisions resulting from speeding can cause more damage than other types of accidents for several reasons:
- Vehicles traveling at higher speeds have more impact in a collision than those at slower speeds because the force is more significant. This often results in more severe injuries or deaths.
- Drivers can’t react as quickly to road conditions, including stoplights, stop signs, pedestrians crossing the road, and vehicles stopping suddenly in front of them.
- Speeding during treacherous weather can cause you to lose control of your vehicle; for instance, ice or water pooled on the road can cause your vehicle to slide, while heavy rain can limit your visibility. Any of those things can cause you to collide with other vehicles or stationary objects, sometimes setting off a chain reaction.
- The faster you are driving, the longer it takes for your vehicle to come to a stop. Speeders are often distracted drivers and may not notice conditions that will cause a collision until it’s too late to stop.
Laws state that drivers should maintain a minimum safe distance from the vehicle ahead of them; that distance allows enough time to slow down or stop safely if necessary. Following too closely behind the lead vehicle, or tailgating, causes many rear-end collisions and often leads to multiple-vehicle accidents. Depending on the circumstances, law enforcement officials level reckless driving charges on drivers guilty of tailgating.
Reckless driving is a step beyond negligent driving. Negligent drivers aren’t intentionally disregarding safety precautions; they are being careless. Drivers who purposefully ignore safety concerns are guilty of reckless driving. Examples of reckless driving include road rage, driving well over posted speed limits, weaving through traffic, trying to “beat a train” when barriers surrounding train tracks are down, and intentionally running red lights.
Your car accident law firm will pay close attention to every driver’s actions leading up to the crash.
What Are Common Car Accident Injuries?
Several things cause car collision injuries, including the force of the impact, broken glass, metal fragments, and unrestrained objects in your vehicle. You can see and feel some of these injuries immediately; however, internal injuries or whiplash may worsen gradually within a few hours or days after the crash. If you have been in an accident, seek medical attention to rule out possible invisible but potentially dangerous conditions.
Some of the most common medical conditions after a collision are:
- Head injuries — Traumatic brain injuries can result simply from the force of the accident itself or an object impacting your head. While unseen, you may experience long-term effects if you sustain head injuries during a collision.
- Whiplash — A collision can cause your head to suddenly and forcefully snap back and forth, sometimes resulting in strained tendons, muscles, and ligaments in your neck. Whiplash is a type of injury that you may not feel at first.
- Scrapes, cuts, punctures, bruises, and lacerations — The force of impact in a car crash can cause your body and other objects inside your vehicle to come into sudden contact. These types of wounds can range from minor to very serious.
- Fractures — The pressures an accident causes, and your body meeting objects in your car, can break your bones. Ribs, legs, arms, shoulders, and hips are bones frequently broken in car crashes.
- Spinal cord damage — The opposing forces in a collision sometimes cause your body to move around violently. Partial or complete paralysis may result from this.
- Back injuries — Your body may twist or otherwise move in awkward positions during a collision. This motion may damage muscles, tendons, and nerves.
- PTSD — Victims who experience severe or traumatic car crashes can suffer anxiety and mental or emotional anguish after the fact. Panic attacks might prevent you from driving or even riding in a car.
How Can William Schwitzer & Associates Help You?
As you know, if you are a car accident victim, it can wreck you emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially, and you deserve compensation. Our auto accident lawyers are ready to give your case the high level of personal attention it needs.
Our experienced car accident law firm has recovered verdicts as high as the millions for our clients, and we may be able to do the same for your case. Top trial attorney William Schwitzer led our firm in obtaining a $10,000,000 motor vehicle verdict in 2010, which was the largest recovery in the state of New York that year.
If you’re concerned that you can’t afford to hire a car accident lawyer, don’t worry. Our firm operates on a contingency fee basis. You won’t pay a penny in attorney fees unless you receive compensation.
Whether you are a driver, passenger, bicyclist, or pedestrian injured because of an automobile accident, we understand the damage a car accident can cause. We are knowledgeable about the laws and rules surrounding car accident cases. Let our knowledge and experience work for you.
During your initial consultation, we will answer these essential questions:
- What are the possible outcomes of your case?
- What are your non-legal or legal options to solve it?
- How long might it take to resolve the case?
If you or a loved one were involved in a car accident, contact us today. You can call us toll-free at (800) 933-1212 or (212) 683-3800 locally, email us at email@example.com, or contact us using this form.