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How Long Does a New York Car Accident Lawsuit Take?

Posted by Scott M. Peterson | Apr 09, 2019

How Long Does a New York Car Accident Lawsuit Take?

There's a saying that "the wheels of justice turn slowly."  This can, unfortunately, often be the case.  And if you're dealing with the fallout of a major accident, it's the last thing you want to hear.

There are a few significant factors that help determine how long an accident case will take in New York.  Keep in mind, however, that anyone promising you "quick dollars" is not only misleading, but is likely doing you a disservice.   Occasionally accident cases can be resolved in six months or less.  More often, however, it is in the client's best interest to allow the process to play out a bit longer.  This can be a tough pill to swallow, particularly following an accident, but it can be beneficial.

Generally, three key questions come into play when considering how long it may take to resolve a lawsuit following an accident.

Who was at fault?

If fault is clear - a car ran a red light and struck your car, for example - it is more likely that the case will resolve on the shorter side of things.  Compare that with a situation where both parties are at fault, and things become a bit more difficult.  In this scenario, the insurance company may very well want to apportion (or split) fault, which means offering you less money for your injuries.  

Our job at this stage is to determine whether to accept the insurance company's position, or to fight it out in litigation.  The latter may result in a large settlement for you in the end, but it will slow the process down quite significantly.

How much insurance coverage is available?

Drivers in New York are not, unfortunately, required to have a large amount of auto insurance.  In fact, it is not uncommon for an accident victim to learn that the other driver had only $25,000 in coverage.   This is fine if your injuries are minor, however when considering this in the context of severe injuries it can become a problem.

Fortunately, in some cases there is a solution in the form of SUM, or UM coverage.  In short, this is coverage under your own auto insurance policy that would kick in if you are injured in an accident and the other driver has insufficient coverage to compensate you.

SUM/UM coverage is mandatory in New York, but the required limits are low and unless you've made an effort to increase them, they may be at the lowest threshold.  

Nevertheless, SUM/UM coverage can play a major role in a case involving severe injuries following a car accident in New York.  It can also, however, slow the process down.  This is because in order to trigger a SUM/UM claim, the primary insurance policy for the other driver must have been offered and accepted.  The SUM claim is then made against your own insurance policy.  Your insurance carrier may then just agree to pay, or you may have to take them to arbitration to resolve the claim.  This process can significantly slow your time for recovery, but remember that it may also result in a larger settlement for you in the end.

How severe are the injuries/was there a death?

If your injuries are, relatively speaking, minor, it is much more likely that the case can and will resolve quickly.  Where the injuries are severe, however, the case may take much longer.  It is imperative that you remember that in a personal injury case, you get one bite at the apple.  Meaning that if you resolve your case too soon, and later decide that you did not receive enough compensation for your injuries, it will be too late.  

Many times attorneys will rush the process for clients, however this is not in your best interest.  While it may seem frustrating, it is important to allow you a chance to recover or determine the full extent of your permanent injuries.  This will protect your interests in the long run.

Finally, where the accident unfortunately resulted in a death, the case will take longer to resolve.  When someone is killed in an accident, an Administrator (typically a spouse or family member) must be appointed by a Court to represent the Estate in any matter arising out of the death. This process can take several months, as the system for processing the appointment can move slowly.  

The factors above are just a few that determine how long it takes to resolve an accident case in New York.  If you have questions about this process contact us today.

About the Author

Scott M. Peterson

Scott M. Peterson is the founding partner of D'Orazio Peterson, having left a partnership at a large regional law firm to limit his practice and focus on helping people protect their families.

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