When you step into a car, the last thing you want to think about is potentially getting into an accident. The reality is that car accidents happen every day. While a good portion of car accidents that occur are mere fender benders, auto accidents can also frequently result in serious injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regularly monitors car accident statistics across states. In New York, the most recent statistics, taken in 2015, showed a total of 1,121 traffic fatalities across the entire state.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
Auto accidents can occur for any number of reasons. At times, however, accidents can be avoided, had a driver taken more care on the road. In the courtroom, a person can claim that these actions, or lack of actions, are negligent. Negligent drivers may be named as defendants in lawsuits. Certain causes of car accidents that may be considered negligent can include:
- Distracted Driving: One common cause of accidents is a driver on the road who is distracted by other things going on, such as what is on their cell phone. Operating a vehicle requires a high degree of attention. On the road, a driver should be devoting their attention to ensuring the safety of themselves, their passengers, and other drivers on the road. A driver who becomes distracted may not only be guilty of a traffic violation but could potentially be held liable in court.
- DUI/Impaired Driving: Impaired driving is almost a surefire way to end up causing a car accident. Not only is it a crime in every jurisdiction, it is also incredibly dangerous.
- Driver Error: Driver error is a broad term that can encompass a number of negligent actions or lack thereof. Driver error often occurs through errors in judgment in situations on the road. Aside from the manual skills of driving, staying safe on the road often comes down to mere decision making. Driver error can also be considered a driver's failure to maintain their own vehicle. A vehicle is a person's private property and should be kept in good maintenance. If a vehicle were to fall into disrepair while in motion, the likelihood of an accident would increase drastically.
Car Accident Cases in New York
When a person is a victim of negligence on the road, they may be able to file a civil claim. In any personal injury case, there are a number of things that a person may claim as "damages." This is a legal term that signifies monetary awards assigned by the court to a plaintiff for the harm they have experienced from their case.
Types of Damages Seen in Car Accident Cases
Some common damages that may be claimed in auto accident cases include:
- Medical Costs: Injuries from car accidents can leave a person with multiple severe injuries. One hospital stay can have a tremendous cost associated with it, and some serious injuries will require repeat visits to doctors or specialized care centers. For this reason, a person's medical costs are often at the forefront of demands for damages in their case.
- Loss of Property/Damage to Property: Car accidents that result in injury are by no means clean incidents. Accidents often result in damage to, or at times, complete destruction of a person's vehicle. A plaintiff may demand that a defendant pays damages related to repair costs or replacement of a total loss.
- Loss of Income: Serious injuries that result from a car accident can cause a person to be out of work for weeks. On top of that, many times, a person's private transportation is their best access to work, or is deeply intertwined with that work. If their vehicle is lost, they may be able to claim damages for the income lost from the loss of their vehicle.
- Funeral Costs: The sad truth of auto accidents is that there is always a chance a person can lose their life in an accident, especially in accidents involving impaired driving. If a person loses their life, their family may claim funeral costs as a part of their wrongful death suit.
- Punitive Damages: When a defendant has been egregiously wrongful in their actions that led to the accident, punitive damages may be assigned. These are damages meant to punish the defendant for their actions, however, they are seldom seen, and typically reserved for cases that involve criminal or severe wrongdoing.
- Non-Economic Damages: Damages such as medical bills or loss of a vehicle are classified as "economic damages". That is, there is a numerical value that can easily be assigned to the loss. Non-economic damages are those that cannot be measured economically or in monetary amounts, such as "pain and suffering" or "mental anguish."
Insurance Laws in New York
New York is a "No-Fault" insurance state, which means that insurance companies will make an attempt to settle any claims before a lawsuit arises. While this may be handy for negotiations, it is best to consult with an attorney before taking any settlements. The insurance adjuster's primary role is to protect the financial interests of the insurer and the settlement offers provided to victims often fall shy of adequately covering long-term medical care and other expenses resulting from an accident.
New York requires basic insurance coverage of up to $25,000 for bodily injury and $50,000 for death for cases involving one person. For cases that involve two or more individuals, the coverage minimum is $50,000 for injuries and $100,000 for death. In addition, claims in New York operate on a comparative fault basis, which means that once a case is in court, the court may find a person only partially responsible for the incident. This means that a defendant may only have to pay a certain percentage of the total damages brought up in court.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney in Saratoga Springs
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact attorney D'Orazio Peterson today to discuss your right to compensation.
We represent clients in Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Ulster and other upstate counties.