The Complete Guide to Saratoga County Accidents
Saratoga County is wonderful place to live and to visit in upstate New York. The diverse area boasts a thriving population of some 225,000 people, residing in one of the nearly two dozen Cities and Towns that make up Saratoga County.
Unfortunately, residents and visitors to Saratoga County are not immune from accidents and severe injuries. While some are truly unavoidable, others are very much avoidable, and would not have occurred but for the negligence of another person. The most common forms of accidents in Saratoga County are car, truck or motorcycle accidents, as well as accidents on the property of others. This guide will help answer some questions that you may have following one of these accidents.
Saratoga County Auto Accidents – A Guide
Auto accidents can happen anywhere, and Saratoga County is no different. The most common of these are car accidents, which may be caused by distracted driving, impaired driving or basic negligence (the failure to act with reasonable care).
Any of these accidents causes frustration to the party who has been hurt, because for the most part, they are preventable. Distracted driving accidents can be avoided by ignoring the phone; impaired accidents by not drinking and driving; other accidents by paying attention.
If you've been hurt in an accident you may be dealing with medical treatment, bills, lost work and family concerns. In order to protect yourself and your family, however, there are other things that must be considered. If you are unable to handle them yourself – whether because you have suffered a catastrophic injury, are dealing with an injury to a child/spouse/family member, or are simply too busy – it is critical that you contact a Saratoga Accident Lawyer to help. You do not want to risk missing out on critical information from witnesses or, more importantly, deadlines that can prevent you from ever making a claim in the future.
Who is at fault?
The first question if you've been involved in an accident is who is at fault? First, you will want to get a copy of the police report, which will identify the other driver, that driver's insurance company, and will indicate whether the other driver was issued any tickets. If the driver was issued tickets, it will be important to contact the Assistant District Attorney assigned to the case, in order to let them know that there was an injury and that you do not consent to a plea.
Once you know who was involved in the accident, you must establish whether they were legally at fault. There are four elements to prove fault in an auto accident case.
1) Duty: did the person who caused the accident owe a legal duty to the injured party. If they were operating the vehicle on a public roadway, chances are that they did, as generally speaking operators of vehicles owe a duty to others with whom they may reasonably foresee coming into contact with.
2) Breach of duty: did the individual who caused the accident fail to act reasonably toward the person who was injured? If so they may have breached their duty to the injured person. For example, if John is driving he owes a duty to Jane, who is also driving in the other lane oncoming. If John is sending a text message, swerves, and hits Jane's car, John has breached his duty to Jane.
3) Causation: Did John's actions, in swerving and striking Jane's car, cause her actual injuries (whether economic or physical)? If Jane did not suffer any economic or physical/emotional injury from the actions of John, it is unlikely that she will be able to recover.
4) Damages: Along the same lines, Jane will have to prove that John's actions caused her specific, provable damages. If, for example, Jane had a pre-existing physical injury that was not involved in the accident, she would not likely be able to recover for that particular injury (she could recovery for injuries associated with the accident, or any prior injuries that were exacerbated by this accident).
If Jane is able to prove each of these elements, she will be entitled to recover against John for injuries that she sustained in the Saratoga County car accident.
How Does the Process Work?
Most people, when they get hurt, hesitate to call a lawyer because they consider themselves “not the type of person to sue.” While this is admirable (and, in fact, we tend to not represent individuals who are too quick to want to sue), the reality is that contacting a lawyer to help you with your injuries does not, necessarily, mean that you have to sue anyone.
When someone has been hurt in an accident they have, basically, two options to seek compensation for their injuries. And it's important to note here that in almost all cases when we talk about compensation we're referring to money damages from the insurance company for the person who caused the accident; not from the individual personally.
Negotiating with the insurance company
The first option is to make a claim with the insurance company for the other driver, and through a process of negotiation, try to resolve that claim short of an actual trial. This is, in many ways, the best-case scenario following an accident, because it will allow you to recovery for your injuries without the necessity of an actual lawsuit. In this scenario, after negotiation the insurance company will agree to pay you some amount of money to settle the case, in exchange for which you will provide a release of any future claims against the other driver (you will agree that you will never make a claim again for these injuries, or from this accident).
Don't be misguided here, however, as the negotiation process with the insurance company can take some time, and is not typically wrapped up for several months after the accident. The primary reason for this is that we rarely recommend that you settle your case while you are still receiving treatment for injuries related to the accident.
FAQ: Can't I handle negotiating with an insurance company on my own?
A very common question from accident victims is whether they can just handle negotiations with the insurance company on their own. The short answer is that in some cases, yes, they can and in fact should do so. Where you have sustained a relatively minor injury, for example, or where the insurance coverage is very limited (say, $25,000), it might make sense to just try to resolve the case on your own and not have to pay a portion of it to the lawyer.
(*Note: most cases involved personal injuries are handled on what's known as a contingency fee basis. In other words, the attorneys do not charge up front for the services, but instead receive a portion of any recovery – typically 1/3 – if any, as their fee. This allows the lawyers to do as much work as is necessary without having to charge the client by the hour).
If, however, you or a family member have suffered a very severe injury, and there is a significant amount of insurance coverage (anything over $100,000), it would be wise to retain an experienced Saratoga County Accident Lawyer to help. There are multiple reasons for this, including the fact that, in our experience, insurance companies will simply offer less money if they know that you do not have a lawyer and there is, therefore, no realistic risk of you filing a lawsuit. Practically, because you do not do this every day you also do not deal with the ins and outs of medical liens, negotiating tactics and strategies, and strengths and weaknesses of potential legal claims that form the basis of a negotiation. It's the same reason that we don't self-medicate if we have a medical issue – while there's lots of information available (especially online), we simply do not have the experience to know, practically, how it will impact our bodies.
So, if you have suffered a severe injury after an accident in Saratoga County, we would highly suggest that you retain a lawyer to help. In the vast majority of cases it will be worth the fee in the end, if nothing else than for the peace of mind that a good lawyer can offer.
The Second Option - the Lawsuit
When people think about calling a lawyer following an accident, they typically think about lawsuits. As we've discussed here, however, lawsuits are not the only option.
We generally recommend lawsuits in one of two scenarios. 1) Where the insurance company is not offering anywhere near the actual amount of money that you are entitled to; 2) Where your injuries are not healed and you are approaching the statute of limitations.
Scenario 1: The Insurance company is not offering a fair settlement
If you are able to avoid a prolonged lawsuit, you should. This is why we routinely encourage exploring the possibility of settling a case at the pre-suit stage.
The reality, however, is that some insurance companies are difficult, and simply refuse to acknowledge the severity of a situation until they are forced to do so in a legal proceeding.
Sometimes, despite best efforts, the insurance company will simply not recognize either the seriousness of your situation, or the fault of their own insured, and in these cases a lawsuit is the appropriate action. This forces the hand of the insurance company, and gives you, the injured person, the right to have a jury decide who is at fault and what they owe. (*Note: simply filing a lawsuit does not guarantee that you will go to trial - there are opportunities to resolve the case through settlement throughout the process).
Scenario 2: Your injuries are not healed.
When you've been hurt in an accident, and are still undergoing treatment two or more years later, filing a lawsuit may be the best option. At that point you will be approaching the statute of limitations for the claim (three years in an accident case), and if you do not file before the deadline, you will be prevented from doing so in the future.
For this reason, if you are getting close, filing suit will allow you to continue treating while the process plays out.
Injuries common to Saratoga Springs Auto Accidents
Injuries from auto accidents can come in all shapes and sizes, from bumps and bruises, to debilitating injuries including death. An injured party in New York cannot recover damages beyond No-Fault benefits, unless that party has suffered a "serious injury" as that term has been defined. This makes it critical to speak with a lawyer if you've been hurt in an accident. An insurance company may suggest to you, or lead you to believe, that you have not suffered a "serious injury", and that therefore your claim is not significant, however we have seen numerous examples of injuries that did not initially look "serious" turn into life altering situations.
Some common injuries include broken arms and legs, severe neck, shoulder and back problems, and traumatic brain injuries. In the worst cases an operator or passenger in a vehicle is killed.
We appreciate that these situations can be life-changing, and families can quickly become overwhelmed, confused, or simply emotionally unable to deal with the legal side of things. We understand that and are well equipped to step in and deal with these issues in a way that protects the rights of the family.
Saratoga Springs injuries on property
Another common cause of injuries in Saratoga Springs are accidents on property owned by another person or entity. This is known as premises liability.
For example, if John is walking down the street, past Jane's house, and a window box falls and hits him on the head, Jane may be responsible. If, for example, Jane knew that the box was hanging by a thread, but ignored it for weeks, she would have breached her duty to John to keep him safe from danger when walking by her home.
Another common example are winter accidents, such as slip and falls in the snow or ice. Property owners have an obligation to keep their sidewalks and walkways clean, and the failure to do so can result in liability if someone is hurt. In situations involving snow and ice, property owners generally have a reasonable period of time following an accident to clear the area (often up to several hours after a "winter event"), however if they fail to do so, and someone is injured, they may be responsible.
Comparative fault in property injury cases
New York allows judges and juries to "offset" damages in an amount equal to the percentage of fault attributable to the injured party. So, for example, let's say John was visiting Jane's house on North Broadway in Saratoga Springs. It had snowed two days earlier, Jane had not cleared the sidewalk, and John falls down and breaks his arm. If John could or should have been more careful, a Judge or Jury could reduce any damages that John would be entitled to by a percentage attributable to his own conduct, say 20%. In that case, if John received an award of $100,000 for his injuries, it would be reduced by 20% and he would receive $80,000.
Cases in Saratoga Springs
Legal actions in Saratoga Springs involving accidents are generally brought or filed in the Saratoga County Supreme Court, located the Village of Ballston Spa. Saratoga Springs also has a City Court, however that court is not typically responsible for hearing cases involving auto accidents or other injuries.
We represent injury victims in the following towns and cities in Saratoga County: Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa, The Town of Saratoga, Clifton Park, Malta, Wilton, Mechanicville, Schuylerville, Halfmoon, South Glens Falls, Stillwater, Corinth, Round Lake, Greenfield, Moreau, Hadley, Milton, Northumberland, Edinburg, Charlton, Victory, Day, Providence and Galway.