The Legal Corner: Advice on Automobile Accidents

The fraction of a second in which an accident occurs has the power to change your life forever. It can be exceptionally challenging – physically, emotionally and financially – to move forward after a serious personal injury.

Today, I am focusing on auto accidents. I have handled hundreds of automobile accident cases throughout the last 26 years and if you’re involved in a car accident, remember the following:

  1. Only give general information: driver’s license information, insurance agent contact, and anything required by law enforcement or medical professionals to ensure the situation is safe. Do NOT admit fault.
  2. Do not confront the other party of the accident in an emotional or hostile fashion. Even if you’re not at fault, you can still prejudice any auto accident claim by your actions AFTER the accident.

In today’s world of ever changing laws especially with respect to laws concerning auto accidents, an innocent driver or passenger must know their rights if they are injured because the time begins to tick as soon as that auto accident occurs.

First, you should always file a No-Fault claim following the accident. You have thirty (30) days from the date of the crash to file a No-Fault application.  No-Fault is a separate and distinct claim from a bodily injury claim. Many people get this confused. If injured in a crash, a cyclist, pedestrian, driver or passenger may have the right to sue for their injury as well as their pain and suffering. This is what we call a bodily or personal injury claim. When you are a cyclist, pedestrian or passenger, it will be this same insurance company that provides and pays your No-Fault claim that will also be defending and paying a judgment or settlement for your personal injury claim. Although payment is made by the same insurance company, these are completely separate claims. Each has their own laws and rules and is usually handled by different adjusters and departments at the insurance company. The two claims also have different standards of proof, available compensation, and coverage.

No-Fault in New York was designed to ensure that regardless of fault, an insurance company will pay cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and passengers up to $50,000.00 for the legitimate economic losses. This includes ambulance and hospital expenses, doctor bills, prescription drugs and diagnostic tests, such as x-rays and MRI’s as well as therapeutic services such as physical therapy. It also includes your lost wages. It does not include compensation for pain and suffering. Any additional claims can be pursued (if you qualify) by a separate lawsuit against the driver(s) and vehicle owner, or any other party who is responsible for causing the crash and your injury.

Do not put off filing your No-Fault claim thinking that your injuries may get better or that your health insurance will cover injuries you suffered in the crash. Simply filing the application does not obligate you to commence a “personal injury claim”. Secondly, most health insurance does not cover a personal injury resulting from a car crash. Filing the No-Fault form simply protects your rights.

It is always recommended that you call the police if you are involved in an auto accident because they will ensure that necessary insurance information is obtained from each party in order to protect everyone’s rights and responsibilities.

In order to sue the driver of the vehicle who was at fault in New York State, you must be able to prove that you have sustained what has been termed a “serious injury”. That term is defined in New York State as either:

  • A permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function and symptom.
  • A permanent consequential limitation of a use of a body organ or member.
  • Significant limitation of a use of a body function or system.
  • A medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which has prevented the Plaintiff from performing substantially all the material acts which constitute the Plaintiff’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the accident.

What did you just read!!!!!! I know, it’s confusing even for lawyers. That is why it is so important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights immediately following an accident.


Written by attorney, Nicholas A. Pelosino, Jr., Esq.

Serving our community for over 26 years

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