What if I get injured in New York? Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Serious personal injury claims in New York can be complicated. If you've been injured it's likely that you have some questions. Below are some common questions and answers. For answers to some other common questions, visit our Personal Injury FAQ page.
How Will I know if I have a case?
Several factors must be considered when deciding whether to pursue legal action following an accident. Among these are the timing of the injury, the damages resulting from the injury and the liability of the wrongdoer.
Timing: When your accident or injury occurred is typically the first thing a New York personal injury lawyer will want to know. There are multiple time periods that govern potential injury claims in New York, and it is therefore critical that if you think you may have a claim, you contact an injury attorney as soon as possible.
The statute of limitations is the time period following an injury during which you are legally permitted to file a lawsuit. If this period has expired, you will likely be precluded from bringing a claim. The statute of limitations for most personal injury lawsuits, against private companies, is three years. This period is much shorter against school districts, municipalities and medical providers, however, and each case is different and must be considered on its own.
If the statute of limitations has expired on your legal claim it is unlikely that we would be able to accept your case, but unless and until you know for sure it makes sense to reach out to an attorney to inquire.
Liability: In order to prove a negligence case in New York, the plaintiff must prove liability, causation and damages.
Liability, generally, means fault. In the context of a possible personal injury lawsuit, this means was there a wrongdoer? And if so, can you prove that they were legally at fault. Legal liablity is proven through evidence, which typically consists of witness statements, documents, testimony, photographs or other proof which goes to show what happened and who was at fault.
If you cannot prove who was legally at fault for your injury, you may not have a legal claim. Once again, it is critical to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney, who can quickly evaluate the evidence and determine whether there is a potential claim.
Damages: If you are able to establish legal liability, the next question becomes whether you are able to prove that the actions of the wrongdoer caused you damages, and if so whether those damages are sufficient to warrant bringing a legal claim.
Sometimes accidents happen and people, fortunately, aren't hurt. Think of a minor fender-bender car accident. You may have a slight ache or pain, but you did not suffer a serious injury and in that situation it may not be worth your time to pursue a legal claim.
This is not to say that those who have not suffered catastrophic injuries should not consider whether they have legal claims – they may and in many cases it makes sense to puruse a claim with the insurance company or even file a lawsuit. The circumstances of the particular case will significantly effect the decision as to whether it makes sense to pursue a claim, and if so in what venue such action would be appropriate.
What if a family member is hurt?
If your family member has suffered an injury as a result of the negligence of a third party you are likely wondering what role you can play.
First and foremost, your role is to provide support to your family member, particularly if it is a spouse, child or parent. Do what you can to help them get well, deal with medical bills, and move forward with their life (if possible).
Legally, your ability to help your family member will depend upon the nature of the relationship. A parent of a minor child, for example, will generally have the authority to take legal action on that child's behalf, including pursuing a claim for personal injuries. A spouse, in order to do the same, would generally need to obtain a written power of attorney, as would an adult child with a parent.
Once you have the legal authority to pursue legal action on behalf of your family member you will stand in their shoes, and will be able to pursue any legal claims available to them, including negotiating with an insurance company or filing a lawsuit.
How are my bills paid?
How and whether your medical bills are paid will depend upon the nature of your accident. In New York, the No Fault law generally provides medical coverage for injuries following a car accident. Similarly, if you have private medical insurance, you will likely be able to have your medical bills paid through that insurance policy.
Unfortunately, if you do not have medical insurance or some other insurance to provide coverage, you may be required to pay your own bills. The good news is that, if you have a strong personal injury claim, you will likely be able to seek reimbursement for any paid medical bills or out of pocket expenses.
How will I know when to contact a lawyer?
The general answer of when to call a lawyer is – now. When you first start to realize you have questions. Much of the legal process involves specific and firm time deadlines, many of which will prevent you from pursuing legal action if they are blown.
You also want to be certain that you are considering all of your options, and are not making decisions based upon emotion – which is very common and completely understandable. Finally, the reality is that while some personal injury claims can be handled without the assistance of a lawyer, doing so comes with great risks including the risk that you will unintentionally undervalue the claim.
At D'Orazio Peterson we offer free initial consultaitons in New York personal injury cases, so there is no risk in contacting us to see what, if anything, you might be missing. We wouldn't try to diagnose an illness, repair a roof or replace a car engine, and in the same vein we suggest that you not try to handle your own legal claim.
What if I'm injured at work?
If you are hurt at work you may be limited in your ability to pursue a negligence cause of action. Whether and to what extent will depend upon who was the wrongdoer.
Under New York law, an employee who is hurt at work is generally limited to recovering from their employer under a Worker's Compensation claim, which will provide reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages. Because of this, however, the injured worked is then prohibited from filing a claim against his employer for negligence, so is limited in pursuing damages for pain and suffering.
This does not, however, mean that you are entirely precluded from pursuing any claim for pain and suffering if you were hurt at work. On the contrary, if a third-party (someone other than your employer) was responsible for your injuries, you will retain the legal right to pursue a negligence claim against that person or company. An example of this would be an employee who was injured in a car accident while delivering a product for his employer, or while traveling to a sales appointment. While the employee would not likely be able to pursue a claim against his employee in this situation, he would be able to pursue a claim against the negligent driver who was responsible for the accident.
What if I'm injured in or by a vehicle other than a car?
When you utilize public transportation, whether a bus, taxi, Uber/Lyft, train, plane or boat, you are placing your life, and well being, in the hands of a third-party. Because of this, the third party generally owes you a special duty of care, which among other things requires that they take reasonable precautions to ensure that you are kept safe.
If you are injured while taking public transportation, because of negligence on the part of the operator or owner of the vessel, you are likely entitled to recover damages for those injuries. The owner of the vessel is considered vicariously liable for the negligent acts of their employee (the operator), under a legal theory known as respondeat superior.
What happens if I'm hurt on someone else's property?
In New York, a property owner has an obligation to keep his or her property in a reasonably safe condition, and to avoid risks/dangers of which it is, or reasonably should have been, aware. If, for example, you are hurt because you slip on ice while walking into a store, the question then becomes whether the property owner knew, or reasonably should have known, of the icy condition and had sufficient chance to fix it (in this case by applying sand or salt).
The liability standard holds true for most accidents that occur on property. If the landowner knew, or should have known, of the dangerous condition, they had legal obligation to repair it. If you are injured because of the negligent failure by the owner, you may have a claim for the personal injuries that you sustained.