Let’s face it: a car crash can ruin your life. Among other things, it can result in disabling injuries, doctors’ visits, hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation therapy, lost income, lost pension benefits, physical pain, mental suffering, and the very real prospect of permanent disabilities. To make matters worse, you will likely have to battle with giant, corporate insurance companies that often wrongfully deny claims and payment because they care more about their bottom line than your well-being.
If you or a loved one were injured in a New York car accident, we understand what you are going through and we can help. No amount of money can ever replace your loss. However, we can help you recover money for the injuries and damages you or your loved one have suffered.
Many people think that if another driver causes an crash, that driver’s insurance company automatically pays for the damages. That is not always the case! At Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C., we have successfully represented thousands of families whose lives have been upended by car accidents. In our experience, dealing with insurance companies serves as one of the biggest sources of frustration for our car crash victims.
The good news is we can help.
Understanding “No Fault” Insurance in NY Car Accident Cases
In New York State, every vehicle is required to have a minimal amount of Personal Injury Protection (PIP), otherwise known as “no fault” insurance coverage. This coverage ensures that the majority of individuals who are injured in a motor vehicle accident in NY can receive certain benefits (e.g., medical treatment, lost wages, transportation expenses) regardless of who was at fault.
These insurance laws and regulations––particularly those involving New York’s “no fault” benefits––are quite challenging to navigate, and getting reimbursed for your out-of-pocket expenses can often be near impossible. For instance, many drivers do not know that a claim for “no fault” benefits must be filed within 30 days of the accident, and that failing to file in a timely fashion may lead to a complete denial of every aspect of your “no fault” claim. A denial prevents you from being compensated for, among other things, your medical bills and lost earnings. Likewise, “no fault” benefits do not include monetary compensation for pain and suffering.
What Injuries Can I Be Compensated for?
Under New York State Insurance Law §5102(d), car crash victims and/or their families can recover money for personal injuries only in cases where their injuries breach the “serious injury threshold.” People injured in car accidents due to the negligence of others breach threshold in the situations involving:
- Dismemberment (e.g., loss of a limb or limbs)
- Significant disfigurement or scarring (your injury must be “significant” enough to cause a reasonable person to view the result as “unattractive, objectionable, or as the subject of pity or scorn”)
- Fractured bone or bones
- Loss of a fetus
- Significant limitation of use of a body function or system
- Permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member (e.g., use of the organ or member causes persistent or chronic pain that has a limiting effect)
- Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system (e.g., the injury must cause the organ, member, function, or system to no longer operate whatsoever)
- The “90/180 Day Rule” (an impairment of a non-permanent nature that prevents you from conducting daily activities for at least 90 of the 180 days immediately following your accident)
Insurance companies do not want to pay out claims for your injuries and they will do whatever they can to deny your claim by stating that your injuries do not fall into any of these categories. Let us help you navigate through your personal injury claims and ensure you get the compensation you deserve.
What if You Lost a Family Member Due to a Car Crash?
We can help you during this unbelievably tragic and difficult time, as we will fight relentlessly to protect your rights and get you and your family the justice and closure you deserve. Depending on the circumstances, we can help you recover money for:
- Loss of financial support,
- Loss of parental guidance,
- Pain and suffering endured by the deceased prior to death, and/or
- Loss of household help.
When you retain Schwartzapfel Lawyers, P.C., you get an experienced team of attorneys who can help you through this trying time while putting you and your family in the best possible position to win your case.
What to Do If You are Involved in a New York Car Accident
Most of us – quite understandably – panic when we get into a car crash. We tend to forget the basic steps we should take to protect ourselves and our rights.
In the event you ever are involved in a car crash in NY, here is what you should do:
- Call 911 – Report the crash to the police and get medical assistance for yourself and others.
- Exchange contact information – Be sure to get the other driver’s license and plate number, as well as the name of his/her auto insurance company and policy number.
- Identify witnesses – Obtain the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses to the crash.
- Get police officer information – In addition to witnesses, be sure to get the contact information of the police officers who arrive on the scene in order to obtain a copy of the police report.
- Take photographs – Does your cell phone have a camera on it? If yes, use it! Take pictures of the property damage to all cars involved in the accident.
- Do not provide any statements – Although you need to notify your own insurance company about the accident, do not provide a written or recorded statement about the incident to any insurance company representative until you have spoken with your attorney.
Types of Damages You May Be Entitled to
If you or a loved one was seriously hurt in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to financial damages.
You could potentially be entitled to payment for:
- Past and future lost wages,
- Mental and physical pain and suffering,
- Medical costs,
- Loss of annuity or pension,
- Loss of household help, and/or
- Loss of consortium (harm to a family relationship)
Case Law Analysis
In order to receive financial compensation in a car accident case, you need to prove that you suffered a serious injury as a result of the negligence of someone else. Sounds simple enough, right? However, what exactly is a “serious injury?” As discussed above, New York State Insurance Law §5102(d) sets forth the nine categories of injuries that breach the “serious injury” threshold. Additionally, court decisions have further interpreted the law. A review of New York case law provides a helpful framework to determine what counts as “serious” and what does not.
First, your word alone is not enough to prove a “serious injury.” At a minimum, New York requires you to put forth objective proof of your injury. See Dufel v. Green, 84 N.Y.2d 795, 798 (1995).
Similarly, the “seriousness” of your injury can be established through objective medical evidence proving the extent or degree of your physical injury or impairment and/or by having an expert designate a numeric percentage for your loss of range of motion. See Lopez v. Senatore, 65 N.Y.2d 1017, 1020 (1985).
Additionally, an expert’s qualitative assessment of your injury, condition, or impairment can be used to determine “seriousness,” as long as it has an objective basis and compares your limitations to the normal function, purpose, and use of the affected body organ, member, function, or system. See Toure v. Avis Rent A Car Sys., 98 N.Y.2d 345 (2002).
However, if the expert’s opinion is unsupported by an objective basis, it will not be allowed to help you prove “seriousness.”
According to the court in Toure, that is because:
“[A]n expert’s opinion unsupported by an objective basis may be wholly speculative, thereby frustrating the legislative intent of the No-Fault Law to eliminate statutorily-insignificant injuries or frivolous claims.” See Toure, 98 N.Y.2d at 351.”
Ultimately, be sure to hire a skilled New York personal injury attorney familiar with all of the ins and outs of New York’s case law. Sometimes, that can be the difference between a favorable outcome and a dismissal.
Who Should You Contact?
Schwartzapfel Lawyers P.C. has made a difficult situation easier for tens of thousands of personal injury clients. Let us help you, too. With decades of experience, our attorneys are well-prepared to handle all of your legal needs. You have a limited amount of time to take legal action, so it is important to call us as soon as possible. Timely action preserves valuable evidence and maximizes your chances of recovering. Call us today at 1-888-575-6410 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation.