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Should I Get A Lawyer For A Car Accident? Deciding on Legal Representation

Founding Member of Moshes Law, P.C.
During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.

Getting in a car accident in New York City can be stressful, especially if you’re injured. While you might be tempted to handle the insurance claim yourself, having legal counsel on your side can make a big difference. Here’s why:

Studies show that people represented by lawyers receive significantly higher settlements than those who go it alone. On average, injured parties represented by an attorney receive 4 times more compensation than those who don’t [Source: Insurance Research Council].

Insurance companies are focused on their bottom line. An experienced car accident lawyer knows how to negotiate with adjusters and fight for a fair settlement.

Understanding Your Rights After a Car Accident in NYC

Being involved in a car accident can be a stressful and confusing experience.  This guide will give you a basic understanding of your rights and legal options under New York City law.

Understanding Your Rights:

 

In New York, the no-fault insurance system operates, which implies that irrespective of fault, your own insurance provider will handle your medical expenses and lost wages. However, if you’ve suffered severe injuries meeting certain criteria, you retain the right to sue the at-fault driver for further compensation. These criteria include: 

  • Medical bills exceeding the coverage limit.
  • Permanent injuries.
  • Significant disfigurement.

Legal Options:

 

  • Negotiating with Insurance Company: Many claims are settled without going to court. An attorney can help you negotiate a fair settlement to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  • Filing a Lawsuit: If negotiations fail, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages from the at-fault driver.

Understanding Insurance:

 

  • Understanding Your Coverage: It’s important to know your insurance policy limits. No-fault coverage only goes so far. Consider additional coverage like Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) to protect yourself in case the other driver has no insurance or not enough.
  • Liability: Comparative fault applies in NYC. This means any damages awarded will be based on the percentage of fault you share for the accident.

Complexities of Car Accident Cases:

New York City’s busy streets and dense traffic can make car accidents a common occurrence. While the situation itself might be stressful, navigating a car accident claim can be even more challenging. Here’s a breakdown of some complexities you might face:

  • Determining Fault: New York follows a “no-fault” insurance system for medical expenses up to a certain amount, regardless of who caused the accident. But for property damage and pain and suffering, proving fault is crucial. This can involve witness statements, police reports, accident scene details, and even traffic camera footage.
  • Insurance Battles: Negotiating with insurance companies can be a maze.  They might try to downplay your injuries, deny your claim, or offer a low settlement. Understanding insurance policies, medical bills, and damage estimates is crucial to ensure fair compensation.

Here’s why an NYC car accident lawyer can be your best bet:

  • Investigating Fault:  Attorneys have the experience and resources to gather evidence, analyze the accident scene, and build a strong case that proves your innocence.
  • Negotiating with Confidence: Lawyers understand insurance company tactics and can negotiate aggressively on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.
  • Navigating Legal Processes:  Car accident cases can involve complex legal procedures and deadlines. An attorney can guide you through the legal system, ensuring your rights are protected.

Assessing Car Accident Damages in New York City

Accidents can leave you with a multitude of burdens.  A proper damage assessment helps ensure you’re fairly compensated.

Why Assess Damages?

 

  • Medical Expenses: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, the average cost of a hospital stay in the US was over $10,000 [CDC: National Hospital Care Survey]. Accidents can lead to significant medical bills, including doctor visits, medications, physical therapy, and future treatments.
  • Lost Wages: Injuries can force you to miss work, impacting your income. New York State requires employers to provide paid sick leave under specific conditions [NY Dept. of Labor: Paid Sick Leave]. However, accidents can result in extended absences exceeding paid leave.
  • Pain and Suffering: Accidents can cause physical and emotional distress. New York law allows compensation for this intangible pain and suffering.

Types of Recoverable Damages:

 

  • Medical Bills: All reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to the accident are recoverable.
  • Lost Wages: Documented lost income due to missed work is compensable.
  • Reduced Earning Capacity: Injuries can limit your ability to work in the future. Compensation may be available for this lost earning potential.
  • Property Damage: Repair or replacement costs for your vehicle are recoverable.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical and emotional distress caused by the accident.

Handling Insurance Claims

Been in a car accident in NYC? You’re not alone. Data suggests there’s a 1 in 36 chance of an accident annually in the city [source: NYC Department of Transportation].  After the dust settles, dealing with insurance claims can be daunting. Here’s a breakdown:

The Claim Process:

 

  1. Report the Accident: File a police report (accident report) within 10 days as mandated by New York State law. This is crucial evidence.
  2. Contact Your Insurance Company: Notify them promptly, ideally within 24 hours. They’ll guide you through the claim process.
  3. Gather Documentation: Collect documents like the police report, proof of insurance for all vehicles involved, pictures of the damage, and medical bills if you sustained injuries.
  4. Adjuster Inspection: The insurance company will send an adjuster to assess the damage. Be present and ask questions if needed.
  5. Settlement Offer: You’ll receive a repair or settlement offer. Review it carefully. Don’t feel pressured to accept the first offer. You have the right to negotiate, especially if you believe it’s too low.

Watch Out: Tactics to Minimize Payouts

 

While insurance companies are legally obligated to handle claims fairly, some tactics may aim to minimize payouts:

  • Lowball Offers: The initial offer might be significantly lower than the actual repair cost. Do your research and get repair estimates from qualified body shops before accepting.
  • Quick Settlements: They might pressure you to settle quickly, hoping you’ll overlook details. Take your time to understand the full extent of the damage and potential injuries.
  • Denial of Coverage: They may deny your claim based on technicalities in your policy. Read your policy thoroughly and understand your coverage.

Who Pays For Property Damage In Car Accident

In New York City, car accidents are handled under a system called “no-fault” for injuries, but property damage follows different rules. Here’s how it works:

  • At-fault driver pays: The driver who caused the accident is financially responsible for fixing the damage to other vehicles and property.
  • Minimum insurance required: New York requires drivers to carry at least $10,000 in property damage liability coverage. This insurance helps cover the costs of repairs to other people’s property if you’re found at fault in an accident.

Here’s the catch:

 

  • No-fault for injuries: No-fault insurance covers medical bills and lost wages for injuries sustained in an accident, regardless of who caused it. This applies to your own injuries and those of your passengers, with some limitations.
  • You might need to file a claim: If your car is damaged, you’ll likely need to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to recover the repair costs.

Should I Get A Lawyer For A Minor Car Accident

Even minor injuries can worsen. An attorney can ensure you get the medical care you need and fight for compensation for medical bills and lost wages (Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average weekly wage in NYC of $1,431 https://www.bls.gov/).

  • Insurance Issues: If the other driver’s insurance denies your claim or offers a low settlement, a lawyer can negotiate on your behalf. New York is a “no-fault” state, meaning your insurance typically covers your injuries regardless of fault, up to a limit. A lawyer can navigate these complexities.

  • Fault Dispute: If there’s disagreement about who caused the accident, a lawyer can gather evidence to strengthen your case.

Consider Going Without a Lawyer If:

 

  • No Injuries & Minor Damage: There are no injuries and only minor cosmetic damage to the vehicles. You can likely handle the insurance claim yourself.

Remember:

 

In short, for minor accidents with no injuries and minimal damage, you might be okay without a lawyer. However, if there are injuries, insurance complications, or a fault dispute, consulting a lawyer is recommended to protect your rights and ensure fair compensation.

Conclusion: What Does A Car Accident Lawyer Do

Here in New York City, car accidents are a common occurrence, with NYPD data suggesting over a third result in injuries each year.  Following a collision, it’s vital to take steps to protect your legal rights.

A qualified car accident property damage lawyer can be your advocate throughout the entire process. They’ll handle complex tasks like investigating the cause of the accident, gathering evidence, negotiating with insurance companies known for lowball offers, and ensuring you receive maximum compensation for medical expenses, lost wages due to injury, and any pain and suffering you’ve endured

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